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Source: Scotland – Highland Council

Highland Council is currently looking at options to secure the future of the lifeline ferry service at Corran Ferry, Lochaber.

The local authority is responsible for operating the Corran Ferry service, which is the busiest single vessel route in Scotland. It carries over 260,000 cars each year and delivers over 30,000 sailings, early morning to late at night, 365 days of the year.

The ferry vessels are at the end of their life and are in need of replacement. Large capital spending will be required to future proof the sustainability and viability of the service.

At a meeting this week of the Corran ferry Steering Group, community representatives were advised that as part of an ongoing outline business case, Highland Council has reviewed again the vessel/infrastructure options to fully understand what will generate the largest benefits whilst considering each of the options in terms of their affordability.

As a result of this, recommendations will be put forward for the Council to consider the option of two new smaller hybrid Roll-on/roll-off vessels (2 x 25 car) which will enable faster loading and will result in the service being compliant and running to the published timetable (instead of shuttling).

The alternative option was for one new larger (50 car) Roll-on/roll-off vessel, with refit / relief / second vessel secured from elsewhere (CMAL fleet). It was agreed that a one vessel operation would result in short-term service outages (No Service) in the event of a breakdown while a backup vessel was mobilised.

Councillor Andrew Baxter, who chairs the Steering group, said from a “political, economic and social point of view, this would be unacceptable”.

Two smaller vessels will deliver guaranteed vessel availability all year round and will provide the required reliability, resilience and sustainability for a lifeline socio-economic dependent service over a 30-year period and should therefore be the preferred option.

The upfront capital costs of the new hybrid vessels will be balanced by savings in operating costs, with improvements in efficiency and fuel consumption that will also contribute to reduced carbon emissions.

An anticipated increase in revenue due the larger capacity of the new vessels and increasing passenger numbers will also help off-set the initial cost. The preferred option will now be considered by the Council’s Harbours Management Board later this month.

The Steering Group also supported the commissioning of an up-dated socio-economic study to be undertaken to reflect the benefits that the Corran Ferry brings to Ardnamurchan, Morvern, Lochaber, Mull and tourism across the West Highlands.

The next step in the outline business case will be to undertake cost modelling on the operational costs and income opportunities. Highland Council does not have a committed capital programme for replacement vessels/slipways and will look to explore sources of funding for the required capital spending. (£45m)

The findings of the 2-vessel option will be taken back to the Councils Economy and Infrastructure Committee seeking approval early next year.

MIL OSI United Kingdom