Whose sign is it at Kingussie's Spey crossing?
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The Badenoch battlers who had spent the day preparing for war over the summer closure of the Ruthven Bridge are laying down their weapons after news emerged that the closure is not scheduled at all until much later in the year.
After an official, if scruffy, sign was posted saying that July 4 would see the closure of the vital river crossing for all the summer months – 13 weeks in all – local businesses and residents shared their shock and alarm on social media in readiness for a protest aimed at 'saving our tourist season'.
Furious locals contacted the Strathy over the day calling for heads to roll at the catastrophic timing, but as checks were being carried out on why there was just one sign – and a rather suspicious one at that – newly elected local councillor Russell Jones was hard at work trying to get to the bottom of it all.
This evening he confirmed to the Strathy that there are NO plans to close the bridge in July.
Even though a formal notice of roadworks remains on the Roadworks Scotland website for that period, Councillor Jones had been fully reassured by Highland Council officials that the sign was wrong and would be removed.
"It appeared at the Ruthven T junction outside Kingussie yesterday afternoon and has caused considerable alarm among local people, businesses, farmers, crofters, cyclists and everyone else who uses the B970 back roads between Kingussie and Insh and beyond," he said.
"I have made a few enquiries and the bizarre truth is that nobody actually knows who erected the sign and it definitely isn't genuine!"
Highland Council roads department did not know who erected it and the Spey Bridge project engineer had told him that his team did not instruct it to be erected either.
"The Spey Bridge is to be repaired but work will not begin until the end of September and when it does it will take approximately four weeks.
"We will have plenty of prior warning and the works are timed to be outside of the tourist season and busy times for farmers and crofters.
"While it will still cause disruption the bridge does have to be repaired so hopefully this is the best time to do it.
"I’m having a meeting with the project engineer at the end of next week and will happily feed back any more relevant information after that.
"In the meantime the ‘mystery sign’ will be removed on Monday and the road will NOT be closed over July, August and September."
Until now a campaign had been going to improve the state of the bridge surface. As community council chairman Ruaridh Ormiston confirmed: "We had written to Richard Porteous of Highland Council re the ongoing very poor state of the bridge.A very positive response had been received.
"We have confirmed with the bridge designer that the bridge can carry a surfacing depth of 120mm. We are therefore
proceeding to draw up a contract and put out a tender to carry out the following works:
• Plane off the existing surfacing and remove areas of damaged waterproofing;
• Install new waterproofing and sub surface drainage system;
• Lay new surfacing (120mm thick);
• Regrade approaches to tie in with higher surfacing level, and;
• Install new expansion joints.
"We initially told the work would require the bridge to be closed for an estimated four week period, originally planned for the beginning of June. We had concerns about the length of time of the closure, but conceded the work had to be undertaken."
But when yesterday's sign went up, confirming the website information, the balloon went up, with assistance sought from local councillors and the Cairngorms Business Partnership, where chief executive Mark Tate had shared the concern about the impact the disruption of losing the 'back road' to Kingussie would cause.
"He agreed that, yes, we need the bridge sorted – but not in July and August!" said Mr Ormiston, who relies on the route to feed his livestock at Ruthven.
Mr Tate told him: "I was amazed to learn plans and fully understand both of your concerns.
"Ironically I was only talking today with CNPA about the promotion of the Speyside Way extension and they clearly did not have any awareness of this.
"I have followed up with them and council officials this morning and will keep you posted."
Now Mr Jones has allayed the immediate concerns with his own investigations, although he remains as baffled as everyone else as to who erected the sign and intends to look further into the issue.
Meanwhile, this notice remains on the Scottish Roadworks site:
"Ruthven Bridge, Ruthven Road, Kingussie. July 4 until October 10, for 60 working days – bridge deck re-waterproofing; excavations in the road at each end of the bridge to install new concrete ground beams; installation of sub-surface drainage; installation of expansion joints; and re-profiling of road surface levels on both approaches and along the full length of the bridge."
More on this as things become clearer.