Fo­rum presses case for bet­ter trans­port links

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

‘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.’

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