Forum presses case for better transport links
‘LEVELS of disappointment on transport-related issues are at an unacceptable high.’
That was the message delivered to transport minister Humza Yousaf during a visit to Fort William this week – a message he said he heard ‘loud and clear’.
The minister attended a meeting of Lochaber Business Forum on Monday afternoon to discuss transport problems which have plagued Fort William and Lochaber in 2016.
Hosted by Ferguson Transport at its depot in Corpach, the meeting was attended by representatives from Shiel buses, BSW Timber, Mallaig harbour authority, A82 partnership and Fort William councillor Brian Murphy.
Chaired by the Chamber of Commerce, the question and answer meeting focused on all aspects of transport and infrastructure. In his opening address to the forum, Mr Yousaf promised to deliver a ‘safe, sus- tainable and efficient transport infrastructure for Scotland’.
During what was described as a ‘ very constructive dialogue’, the transport minister discussed gridlocked traffic in Fort William town centre, Network Rail hold-ups on commercial operations, the disruptive impact of the transfer of the MV Coruisk from the Mallaig to Armadale route and A82 extension or Caol link road proposals.
Responding to concerns of under- delivery by the Scottish Government, raised by the Lochaber business community, Mr Yousaf said he was committed to speaking to Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson to offer support for an appraisal of the Caol link road to be carried out.
The transport minister said he would support spending on the A82 should the next spending review decide on capital stimulation, claiming a share of this will be earmarked for the A82.
Fort William councillor and chairman of the A82 partnership Brian Murphy told The
Oban Times that the meeting was ‘reasonably encouraging, but not overly. We will just have to wait and see the outcome. I have no reason to be pessimistic about what was promised and it all sounded fairly positive.’
With regard to the Mallaig to Armadale ferry service, Mr Yousaf agreed to look into a proper solution to service the route. He also announced the freight fares review, which aims to deliver a ‘simple and transparent’ fare structure, would report soon.
Lesley Benfield, chief executive of Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, said: ‘It is clear the message is getting through. Levels of disappointment on transport-related issues are at an unacceptable high. The Chamber of Commerce will continue to lobby for improvement and to hold those responsible for delivery to account. We are very grateful to Mr Humza Yousaf for attending the business forum and for his keen determination to work in the best interests of Lochaber.’