The current Corran Ferry service isn’t sustainable, with two ageing vessels and a crewing situation becoming critical.
That was the message for Highland Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure (EDI) committee in a report carried out for the council by consultants Peter Brett Associates.
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The report describes a number of complex options and scenarios, ranging from having the service delivered by Highland Council, transferring the responsibility to Transport Scotland or putting it out to the private sector.
It also emphasised the difficulty of attracting new crew, stating the need to try and attract young people into the business.
The short crossing is a lifeline service for people the communities of Ardnamurchan, Morvern, and Moidart on the Ardgour peninsula as well as a popular tourist route to Mull.
Lochaber councillor Andrew Baxter said: “The Corran ferry is close to the heart of some 1,500 residents.
“There was a complete loss of service for over a week when the spare ferry was away and the existing one broke down, and they had to wait for parts from overseas. It had a devastating impact on residents who couldn’t get to work in Fort William, who couldn’t get to hospital, couldn’t get their weekly shopping.
“There’s nowhere near a settled view yet on how to keep it going, but it’s right to be having discussions with Transport Scotland.”
EDI councillors agreed that the council should undertake further exploration of options in order to develop a preferred outline business case, which would include essential consultation with Transport Scotland, councillors and other appropriate stakeholders, including potential vessel providers and operators.
There will also be an analysis of the impact of any changes to fares structures and revenue and to users.
If Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) pricing was introduced, Corran Ferry users would experience a massive hike in fares.
Mr Baxter said: “This service is unique in the UK, we would have to negotiate with Transport Scotland and Scottish ministers to argue for a different form of RET.”