CONTROVERSIAL plans to increase fares on one of Scotland’s busiest ferries have been put on hold after a study into their economic impact hit a snag.
But price rises on the Corran service – which is one of the most expensive in the world – could be back on the agenda later this year. Last night, campaigners welcomed the fares freeze and made fresh calls for charges to be crapped altogether or a bridge to be built to remote Ardgour.
But the chairman of Highland Council’s new community services committee immediately ruled out the prospect of a bridge being built and insisted there was no money available to pay for it. The committee will be asked to postpone any fare increases at a meeting next week.
Chairman of the Free Crossing for Corran campaign, Tony Boyd, said last night that the idea of any further price rises was “laughable”.
He said: “The peninsula does suffer already. There’s evidence of tourists coming down, seeing the ferry fares and doing an about-turn.
“If there are more and more increases it’s going to affect all the businesses in the area. On the peninsula, we don’t really see the ferry as any different from a bridge and most of the bridges in Scotland are toll-free. If there had been a bridge built there it would be a free crossing anyway. That is our approach with this campaign.”
He said the council should be considering reducing the cost of the ferry through Scottish Government subsidies rather than continuing to increase prices.
The group plans to hold talks with the head of the council’s community services department.
Robbie the Pict, who led the fight against the Skye Bridge tolls and has joined the Corran Ferry campaign, said the prospect of a deferral of further fare increases was the “beginnings of success” in persuading the authorities to understand there was a “social justice” problem at Corran. He added: “It is a gross injustice that we have an arterial route and the price is going up when people are effectively prisoners of that ferry.”
He said the Scottish Government should step in to provide a road equivalent tariff scheme on the ferry to help the fragile rural community it serves.
The Highland Council-run Corran Ferry is the second busiest in Scotland.
It makes a four-minute crossing across Loch Linnhe to serve the remote communities of Ardgour, Morvern and the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
In an effort to bridge an increasing funding gap in the service – now standing at £170,000 – the council has put up fares by more than 23% in 12 months. Ticket prices went up by 4% in April last year, 15.6% in November and a further 4% last month.
At £7.90 per car for a crossing of about 500 yards, campaigners claim it is now one of the shortest and most expensive ferry services in the UK and are calling for a completely free crossing to safeguard the future of their communities.
A further increase for most vehicles was under consideration but now councillors will be asked to defer it until November.