Cor­ran Ferry break­down leads to road traf­fic chaos

Lat­est sham­bles likely to lead to new calls for fixed cross­ing

The Oban Times - - Lochaber Times & Oban Times - MARK ENTWISTLE men­twistle@oban­times.co.uk

DAYS of chaos caused by the break­down of the Cor­ran Ferry and the un­avail­abil­ity of its backup ves­sel will reignite calls for a fixed cross­ing and whether a ferry is still a long-term sus­tain­able so­lu­tion.

That was the view of An­drew Bax­ter, coun­cil­lor for Fort Wil­liam and Ard­na­mur­chan, yes­ter­day as the ferry sham­bles en­tered its fifth day.

Mr Bax­ter said: ‘There has been talk about a fixed cross­ing of some sort. I think this will fo­cus minds about whether a ferry is a long-term and sus­tain­able so­lu­tion.’

En­gi­neers work­ing to re­pair the crip­pled ves­sel, which is op­er­ated by High­land Coun­cil, were said to be wait­ing on a soft­ware spe­cial­ist to ar­rive from Ger­many yes­ter­day (Wed­nes­day).

No hull dam­age was ap­par­ent on the ferry, how­ever, this was to be con­firmed by divers and the steer­ing still needed to be checked by sys­tems sup­port en­gi­neers so the ves­sel could be signed off by the Mar­itime & Coast­guard Agency (MCA) for a re­turn to ser­vice.

Satur­day’s trans­port prob­lems be­gan when a fault with the Cor­ran Ferry’s steer­ing saw the ves­sel ‘briefly touch the rocks’ be­side Nether Lochaber slip­way at 12.36pm. The real dif­fi­cul­ties started, how­ever, when it emerged the usual back-up ferry, the Maid

of Glen­coul, was also out of ac­tion. The Maid of Glen­coul has still to re­turn from her spring re­fit and is moored at Bute, wait­ing for the man­u­fac­ture of a spe­cial part for its steer­ing.

After the Cor­ran Ferry ser­vice was suspended on Satur­day, dozens of stranded cars, vans and other ve­hi­cles clogged up roads round Ard­gour, Morvern and Ard­na­mur­chan for hours.

There were even re­ports of one lo­cal rigid in­flat­able boat be­ing pressed into ser­vice to re­trieve some ferry foot pas­sen­gers.

One vis­i­tor said it took his fam­ily hours to get back to Fort Wil­liam from Ard­gour, say­ing: ‘There were cars, vans, mo­torhomes – you name it – all try­ing to use the sin­gle track roads. It was chaos.’

As the Lochaber Times went to press yes­ter­day (Wed­nes­day), it was still not clear how long the Cor­ran Ferry would be out of ac­tion, mean­ing res­i­dents on the Ard­na­mur­chan penin­sula were still faced with post­pon­ing trips in­volv­ing the ferry or mak­ing a 35-mile road trip.

At the start of the week, High­land Coun­cil said it was lias­ing with third par­ties to find a so­lu­tion and by yes­ter­day (Wed­nes­day) morn­ing still could not say when it ex­pected the ferry ser­vice to re­sume.

High­lands and Is­lands MSP Don­ald Cameron said the prob­lems meant res­i­dents in some of the most ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in Lochaber had been with­out a life­line ser­vice.

‘Not only that, but given this is one of the busiest times of year for tourism, it will have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on vis­i­tors to Ard­gour, Morvern and Ard­na­mur­chan,’ he said, adding there needs to be a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion as to why this hap­pened and why no re­place­ment ves­sel was avail­able.

Mr Cameron said he in­tended writ­ing to Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment Trans­port Minister Humza Yousaf and Steve Bar­ron, chief ex­ec­u­tive of High­land Coun­cil, on the is­sue.

Mr Bax­ter, mean­while, has asked coun­cil of­fi­cers to look at al­ter­na­tive ser­vices, in­clud­ing other fer­ries, a pedes­trian only ser­vice with con­nect­ing bus shut­tle and even help from the Royal Navy, if it looks like the sit­u­a­tion will not be re­solved quickly.

The Cor­ran Ferry.

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