Corran Ferry breakdown leads to road traffic chaos
Latest shambles likely to lead to new calls for fixed crossing
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.