AN ambitious project which could see a TUNNEL linking Portencross, Wee Cumbrae and the Isle of Bute is one of the proposals within a new Transport Scotland masterplan.

They are under consideration as a possible solution to reach Argyll and Bute problems and solve the landslide issues that have repeatedly closed the Rest and Be Thankful route.

A decision on the various options is expected to be decided by spring 2021.

One could see the unpopulated Little Cumbrae Island have a road network created at the south west of the island for the first time. The tiny beauty spot is owned by Sam and Sunita Poddar, who have a yoga retreat on the east side of the 1.21 sq mile patch of land.

A total of 11 of tunnel options have been put forward, including Portencross to Wee Cumbrae and Bute and Gourock to Dunoon.

Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson says that the project announcement is to reduce dependence on ferries and the A83 - and believes the 'tunnel vision' could become a reality.

He said: “A tunnel could work.

“Such a consideration would once have been pie-in-the-sky but advances in technology mean that a 4-5 kilometre tunnel from, for example Dunoon to Gourock might be possible, reducing dependence on ferries and the A83. Obviously, the people of Cowal might not wish for such a connection and the technical and economic feasibility would have to be considered. Nevertheless, it is certainly worth exploring.

“Two years ago I visited the Faroe Islands. It’s highly industrious population of 52,656 have enthusiastically taken tunnel construction on board. Since 1963, 16 have been built with another four under construction. Next year the Eysturoyatunnelin will open. It’s 11.24 kilometres in length, 10.5 metres wide and will take an estimated 6,000 vehicles a day to a depth of 189 metres under the sea. It’s cost is around a billion Danish Krone, a modest £120 million. Nine more tunnels are planned.

“Faroe Island tunnels ensure communications even in the worst kind of Atlantic weather. It also connects every part of the islands such that people can travel from one end of the archipelago to the other in a couple of hours or less. This mitigates against rural depopulation, allowing communities to thrive across the islands. If the Faroes can do it, with less than one per cent of our population, why not Scotland?”

Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson said: “Following the recent landslips at the A83 Rest and Be Thankful, I understand the frustration and disruption that these bring for local communities and road users.

“While our previous and on-going investment has helped keep the road open for an estimated 48 days, I realise people are looking for a long term solution and we are committed to delivering one.

“Transport Scotland is now taking forward the project development and assessment work required to deliver an alternative infrastructure solution."

One of the other options is a a connection from the A78 trunk road near Portencross to Cowal via a 2.65km and 2.53km crossing between the mainland and the Isle of Bute via Little Cumbrae Island and a 0.5km crossing between the Isle of Bute and Cowal within the vicinity of the Colintraive to Rhubodach ferry crossing.

Another option, Cairndow via Dunoon, would use the same Portencross-Wee Cumbrae-Bute route and a 2.23km crossing between the Isle of Bute and Inverclyde.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “As is usual practice at this stage of a project we are examining a broad range of options for providing sustainable and resilient access to Argyll and Bute. We are asking for comments on the following 11 project corridor options by 30 October.

"We will then look to make recommendations for a preferred route corridor."

The consultation documents and maps are available here: