Corran Ferry campaigners have praised Highland Council for changing the date of MV Corran’s annual refit to avoid the Mull Rally and October school holidays.
The move follows pressure from the Free Crossing for Corran group, which sees it an important step forward in its campaign for a free crossing at the Corran Narrows, near Fort William, in Lochaber.
The group’s chairman, Tony Boyd, said: “Highland Council has shown it can respond to community concerns.
“It’s now up to them and to the Scottish Government to secure the long-term future of the crossing and find a real solution to an integral part of Scotland’s trunk road system that is essentially holding our communities to ransom.”
He explained that the peninsula communities had been calling for years for a shift in the MV Corran’s maintenance schedule, which until now had meant a long absence in October during school holidays and the traffic-intensive Mull Rally.
Mr Boyd said: “The resulting long queues on both sides of Loch Linnhe were a potentially deadly obstruction on a main trunk road as well as creating havoc with travel schedules.”
Instead, the work to the MV Corran, which provides a vital transport link to Ardgour, Morvern and the Ardnamurchan peninsula, will be carried out at the end of October.
Highland Council operates two vessels on this route, the MV Corran and MV Maid of Glencoul, which is the reserve vessel.
And the local authority said it had been working closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Calmac to re-arrange the timing of the refit.
Councillor Graham MacKenzie, who is chairman of the council’s community services committee, said: “We have listened to the local community and, with the agreement of MCA, I am pleased we are able to put in place measures to reschedule the MV Corran refit until the end of October.
“This means we will no longer need to deploy the smaller relief vessel MV Maid of Glencoul over the busy school holiday period and the local community and visitors can benefit from an improvement to the service that has previously not been possible at this time of year.”
Leader of Lochaber Area, Councillor Thomas MacLennan said: “Corran Ferry is the second busiest vehicular crossing in Scotland with over 250,000 vehicle trips per year and it plays a vital role in the social and economic activities of the whole area.
“Anything we can do to minimise disruption to the service is good news, so I am delighted that re-timing of the annual refit now means there will be greater capacity on the crossing, in particular over the weekend of October 10-12 when the Mull rally takes place.”