THE A7 is in danger of collapsing into the Ewes Water north of Langholm, says a couple living on the trunk road.
Howard and Kath Ashton-Smith, who live next to Highmill bridge, have watched the riverbank being washed away year after year.
They now fear that, unless something is done, the water will continue to scour the riverbank until it eats into the main route to the Borders.
While they live on the far side of the road, their septic tank is under the riverbank and has been exposed by the constant erosion. While it is safe at the moment, they are worried it may be washed away.
Already, part of the hedge on the roadside near their house has fallen down the banking and exposed the verge to erosion.
The couple has lived in the house for 12 years and Howard estimates that about three metres of banking has been washed away.
The land closest to the bridge has remained intact so Howard can see how much has been eroded further downstream.
Howard and Kath rent their property from Buccleuch which also owns the riverbank.
They initially wrote to Buccleuch’s office in Langholm six and a half years ago about their concerns but have heard nothing since.
They also contacted Amey in the summer but Amey was about to hand over the contract to BEAR Scotland so, after an inspection, forwarded its assessment to BEAR.
Amey’s correspondence to the Ashton-Smiths in August said: “We attended and took some photos of the issue you described.
“Our view, I’m afraid, is that, at the moment, there is no impact on the trunk road.
“Our network covers some 550 miles of highways in Scotland’s south east and there are issues such as this around the region.
“At the moment, the river is some six metres away from the hedge line which we would identify as being the trunk road boundary, with another three to four metres of verge prior to the road edge.
“From your point of view, you may wish to raise this issue with BEAR in the coming weeks because that will trigger more inspections of the issue via the weekly safety inspections.
“But we do not feel there is an immediate danger to road users which would otherwise warrant an immediate fix or attempt to make the area safe potentially by way of traffic management.”
The E&L Advertiser contacted BEAR Scotland which said: “We are aware of this issue but the eroded riverbank currently lies outwith the trunk road boundary, for which we’re responsible.
“We’ll discuss the required next steps with both the landowner and Transport Scotland.
“In the interim, we will continue to monitor this location and others nearby and take action as necessary to protect the trunk road.”
Denis Male, vice-chairman of the A7 Action Group, said he would inform Marjorie McCreadie, the group’s secretary, urgently and ask her to contact their two chairmen and the other vice-chairman to agree they get in touch with BEAR and the Scottish transport secretary.
He said: “This major issue affects not only the residents but also puts the A7 at risk. The main concern, however, has to be for the householders.”
Denis also said the problem at the Skippers Bridge lights had been raised several times.
He added: “The coping stones, which are loose on the former railway embankment wall, could seriously injure road users should they fall during a storm.”
Councillor Ronnie Tait said: “I reported these problems to Amey seven to eight months ago.
“I would assume they have pipelined this to BEAR which now manages the A7.”
John Galloway, chairman of Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk community council, said he was not aware of the situation but had spoken to councillor Tait who did know and that it had been reported.
He said: “Ronnie is going to chase them again and hopefully there will be an update from him.”
A spokesperson for ScottishPower, which has poles along the riverbank, said they had received no reports of any unsafe poles but a team would go and have a look straight away.
There were also some BT poles in the vicinity.
She said: “The key thing is it’s crucial that people tell us about anything which could affect our network so we can take action at the earliest opportunity.”