The future of a lifeline ferry link in Lochaber is up for debate – with the opinion of locals sought.
The Corran Ferry has sailed for decades across the narrows of Loch Linnhe connecting the Ardnamurchan and Morvern peninsulas with the A82 Inverness to Glasgow road.
But an ageing ferry and inconsistencies have led to calls for a permanent fixed link to replace the service.
Now, after years of concerns, Highland Council is seeking the opinion of locals.
A socio-economic study has been commissioned to help form the business case for infrastructure and fleet improvements.
The study will be conducted by Stantec on behalf of Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (Hitrans).
‘Urgent need for improvements’
The local authority has said there is an “urgent need to invest in the ferry service to protect and develop the lifeline link”.
The ferry service operates seven-days-a-week and carries approximately 270,000 vehicles across its 30,000 annual crossings – making it the busiest shuttle service in Scotland.
A feasibility study has already been conducted by Transport Scotland towards a longer term solution, however, Highland Council says work must be done now to improve the current infrastructure.
A council spokesman said: “This is driven in part by the need to replace the ageing MV Maid of Glencoul, but also by vehicle capacity issues which leads to traffic queuing issues on either side of the Corran Narrows.
“The ferry meets the supply chain needs of the communities; it is heavily used by commercial users and provides residents with daily connectivity to employment, health, education, and everyday activities.
“It also acts as a gateway for tourists visiting the peninsulas and beyond, and with the current trend for holidaying at home these number are continuing to rise further.
“There exists, therefore, an urgent requirement for investment in the replacement of the vessels and infrastructure to ensure the sustainability of the service, until such time as a longer-term fixed-link solution can potentially be realised.”
The study is being put to residents, local businesses, visitors and elected members and is focusing on how the ferry currently supports the functioning of the communities it serves.
A four week period has been introduced to allow those being surveyed time to gather their thoughts.
Study is ‘so important’ to gather locals views
Local councillor Andrew Baxter has urged as many locals as possible to take part in what he believes is a worthwhile project.
Mr Baxter said: “Highland Council needs to make a final decision on the replacement of the existing ferries operating across the Corran Narrows.
“It seems staggering that the need for new vessels has been recognised by the council for nearly ten years but we are no further forward.”
He continued: “This requires major spending to ensure we have a ferry service for the future.
“It is likely we will need Scottish Government support for this.
“That’s why this study is so important. It’s something called for by both local councillors and communities served by the Corran Ferry.
“It is very different from the sham consultation the council cobbled together several years ago, which wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
“I urge everyone, whether a resident or business on the peninsula to have their say.”