Further fare increases for the Corran Ferry in Lochaber will be considered by Highland councillors next week.
Members of the council’s community services committee meeting in Inverness on Thursday will be asked to agree that the ferry operation “works towards a break even position through a combination of increased revenue and reduced costs”.
Any proposed fare increases from April of next year would then be presented at the next meeting of the committee for its approval.
Fares on the ferry, which provides a lifeline link between the mainland and the remote settlements on the Ardnamurchan and Moidart peninsulas, went up by 4% last April, 15.6% last November and a further 4% in April.
And, at £7.90 per car for a crossing of around 500 yards, campaigners, who are calling for the service to be free, claim it is now one of the shortest and most expensive ferry services in the UK.
However, the service ran at a deficit of £221,764 in 2013/14.
In a report to the committee, the council’s director of community services, William Gilfillan, states that, following the fare increase in April and other cost cutting measures, this is expected to reduce to £115,000 for 2014/15.
And he says: “Should fares continue to increase at an approximate 4% per annum with costs remaining constant, which would be difficult to achieve itself, the service is still likely to record a loss. This would be predicted at £66,874 for 2015/16.
“It is clear that cost rises of 5.3% per annum are unsustainable in the longer term as residents, tourists, and business would struggle to keep up with this level of increase if the service is to remain commercially viable.
“Managing costs, where possible, has to be at the forefront of any strategy moving forward.”
Mr Gilfillan points out that one way of reducing costs would be to share resources with CalMac and discussions are being held on the possibility of using MV Loch Bhrusda to provide relief cover for MV Corran.
He also reports that initial talks with Transport Scotland suggest it is “generally amenable” to taking ownership of the lifeline service, but it would have to be commercially viable before a transfer could take place.
Feedback on the results of a socio-economic study into the impact the rises would have on local communities was also due to be presented to the committee on Thursday, but community councils in the area have not submitted any responses.
The Free Crossing for Corran campaign group could not be contacted for comment yesterday.