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Delay to Riverside Way cycle route in Inverness after gas pipe hit


By John Davidson

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The Riverside Way route will begin on Ness Walk at the Highland Hospice, pictured earlier this week before the snow fell. Picture: James Mackenzie
The Riverside Way route will begin on Ness Walk at the Highland Hospice, pictured earlier this week before the snow fell. Picture: James Mackenzie

Work on the Riverside Way active travel scheme in Inverness have been hit by delays after developers came across an old gas main.

It means the project, which was due to be completed on May 22, is now expected to be finished on July 1. However, that date could yet be shifted into August, according to the civil engineering contractor on the scheme.

The Riverside Way is aimed at improving conditions for those walking, wheeling and cycling from the archive centre to Highland Hospice, as well as providing formalised parking areas and better lighting and drainage in the area.

It will include a segregated contraflow cycle lane, changes to junction layouts and the widening of footpaths.

Will Bros Civil Engineering Ltd is the lead contractor on the job and began work in late October, with a section on Ness Walk from the Highland Hospice to the RNI Hospital at Ballifeary Lane one of the first to get under way. Works are also taking place along Bught Road from its junction with Bught Avenue to the anglers’ car park.

An old, leaking gas main was discovered below the road surface on Ness Walk. Picture: James Mackenzie
An old, leaking gas main was discovered below the road surface on Ness Walk. Picture: James Mackenzie

A public meeting was held on Tuesday at the rugby club at Canal Park, where an update on progress was given by Highland Council officer Graeme Campbell and representatives of the company.

Project manager for Wills Bros, Chris Preen, said he understood that the works were disruptive but that they were doing everything possible to minimise the delays.

He said: “We were unfortunate enough to hit a gas main on Ness Walk. We brought Scottish Gas Networks onsite and they walked the line that goes down Ness Walk and comes into Ballifeary Lane in front of the hotel.

“That section is an old line and it’s too close to the surface, so they’ve decided that they need to replace it, but they’re battling to get materials.”

Gas distribution company Scottish Gas Networks (SGN) has been involved in meetings with the project team this week.

Mr Preen said that the current expected finishing date of July 1 was based on the gas works being completed this week, and said he thought there could be a further delay.

“It might go on another four weeks, so it could be August 1,” he said. “We don’t want to be here that long, you don’t want us to be here that long. We’re ready to go, we’ve got all the equipment here, we’ve got the people.”

He added that work on the footpath and cycle path along the Ness Walk section could be done fairly quickly once the gas pipe situation was resolved and the weather improves.

“The weather is scuppering us big time at the moment,” he said. “I think this week the temperature is not going to get above -3 or -4 and I can’t concrete in that. All I can do is excavate and all that sort of stuff, so we’ll just get as much open as we can, and as soon as we can concrete we just run it all in and then do the kerbs.”

SGN spokesperson Waseem Hanif said they were keen not to disrupt the project any further.

He added: “We’ve been working to replace our gas main in Ness Walk, Inverness, within Highland Council’s work area to help minimise overall disruption to the community.

“However, due to the difficult ground conditions we’re postponing our work as we’re unable to complete it within the available window of opportunity.

“Our engineers will need to remain on site until January 26 to undertake connections work in agreement with the council.

Excavation works have taken place on Bught Road. Picture: James Mackenzie
Excavation works have taken place on Bught Road. Picture: James Mackenzie

“We've worked in close collaboration with Highland Council to ensure there's been no delay to their work as a result of our activity and will continue to do so.”

Progress has been made elsewhere on the project, including all the street lighting installed and connected in the current work areas. Different sections of the route will reopen in stages, with traffic management used in some locations to help retain two-way access to the hospital, care home and Ness Walk hotel during the rest of the works.

The scheme is financed by Sustrans’ Places For Everyone fund as part of Highland Council’s Active Travel Network.

A further meeting to give an update on progress is scheduled for March 12, with the venue yet to be confirmed.

The Fisherman's Hut car park is being used by the workers. Picture: James Mackenzie
The Fisherman's Hut car park is being used by the workers. Picture: James Mackenzie
Formalised parking will be installed on Bught Road beside the skate park. Picture: James Mackenzie
Formalised parking will be installed on Bught Road beside the skate park. Picture: James Mackenzie

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