Source: Scotland – Highland Council
Members of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee are united in calling for Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government to work with the Council to secure the future of the Corran Ferry service.
In a report discussed by the committee yesterday (Wed 4 Nov) it was noted that after a considerable amount of work and careful consideration a letter had been sent to the Cabinet Minister seeking approval to form a working group with officers from Transport Scotland regarding the possibility of transferring over responsibility of the Corran ferry service in accordance with the principles set out in the Scottish Ferries Plan.
Members shared their disappointment regarding the Scottish government’s response to the Councils proposal to form a working group. After several years of discussions with officers from Transport Scotland the Council had been hopeful that our proposal to move to the next level of detailed formal discussion would get approval by the Cabinet Minister.
Highland Council are proposing that a working group would align a plan of work that would fully consider the method of future delivery and the principal issues to be addressed which are set out as follows:
- Capital and Revenue requirements
- Vessel(s) provider including relief cover
- Operating the service (Crewing Model)
- Aligning Structures and Slipway Design
- Landside Infrastructure Ownership
- Fares Structure (RET)
Chair of the Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson said: “We wrote asking for a Working Group to be set up so we could move forward and the next level of detailed dialogue on the future of the service could begin. It is disappointing not to receive a more positive response to this request, so the committee agreed that we write to requesting a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary early next year and continue to lobby for an improved position.”
Members felt that there was a lack of recognition from the Scottish Government regarding the significance of the lifeline socio-economic dependant Corran Ferry service that links the fragile communities of Fort William, Ardgour, Sunart, Ardnamurchan, Moidart, Morar, and Morvern. The service is the busiest single vessel route in Scotland carrying over 260,000 cars each year and is also of national strategic importance connecting with the ferry network via the Lochaline – Fishnish route and meeting the island needs on the Isle of Mull.
Local Councillor and Chair of the Lochaber Committee Cllr Andrew Baxter said: “I am disappointed in the Scottish Government’s response to the letter we sent. There appears to be a lack of recognition that this is a strategically important service that has a wider impact than servicing the local communities. At the moment we are relying on a backup vessel which is over 50 years old while the normal ferry gets it annual service. This is an urgent issue that has a very strong socio-economic impact. The investment required will be significant, so we need to press for further engagement with the Minister and Transport Scotland as a priority.”
Fellow Lochaber Councillor Alan Henderson, Chair of the Communities and Place Committee added: “Highland Council are now at a point where a critical decision will need to be made as a delay in making a strategic decision to invest and retain the service in house or transfer responsibilities to Transport Scotland could result in Service failure. Large capital spending will be required for new replacement vessels and the supporting Infrastructure to future proof the sustainability and viability of the service.”
The committee agreed all recommendations in the report and next steps will include the Corran Ferry project seeking to procure a Naval Architect early next year to establish a statement of requirement specification and design for (2 x 25) car new vessels. (The timescale for completion of the new vessels and slipways is approximately 5 years away). The Project will also be looking to procure an external source to undertake a detailed socio-economic report on the critical importance of the ferry.