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INSIDE TRACK: Tempers rise after latest price hike for lifeline ferry service

This year sees the 30th anniversary of the publication of the late poet Alasdair Maclean's "Night Falls on Ardnamurchan:

The Twilight of a Crofting Family".

It tells of the remote crofting township of Sanna. In it he wrote: "I have always looked on the ferry that crosses the Narrows of the Linnhe Loch at Corran as a kind of mobile decompression chamber where ... I was fitted to breathe pure air again ... "

But today the Highland Council run Corran Ferry, and far from being a decompression chamber it is raising tempers amongst those living in the likes of Ardgour, Acharacle, Kilchoan, Lochaline and Strontian.

They have launched a campaign against a third price increase in the last year, which brought the fares up to £7.90 for a single crossing with a car or £69.50 for a book of 30 tickets. At a little over one-quarter of a mile it is reckoned to be the most expensive stretch of water in Scotland.

This may be OK for all those who cross the ferry to head to their holiday homes, which make up 50% of the housing stock in the old parish of Ardnumurchan and up to 90% in some townships where a house site costs £75,000 to £100,000.

It may be OK for most of those who have retired there on large pensions. But for those of working age who try to live there, it is different.

The cost of a family of two adults and two children living in a remote rural area has been calculated to be 30% or £10,000 to £16,000 a year higher than in or near an urban area.

So many families depend on one parent working in Fort William, which requires three ticket books every two months,.

But to them and others the Corran Ferry is a lifeline ferry service, in all but name.

The alternative is the A861 single track road on the west side of Loch Linnhe round the head of Loch Eil to join the Mallaig road.

Some years ago the GP in Lochaline said that the journey from their village to the Belford Hospital in Fort William was normally 23 miles, around one hour 15 minutes, by the ferry.

The distance around Loch Eil was 78 miles, taking an extra hour with additional traffic on the A861. Nothing has changed.

But it is the second busiest ferry in Scotland, with a lot of heavy traffic including timber lorries. It should be able to pay its way. It used to, but the council says income has not kept pace with inflation.

A bridge was in the council's Local Plan, but won't be built any time soon.

So if it is now unprofitable why is it not a Public Service Obligation (PSO)? A PSO allows for example the Scottish Government to subsidise the air service between Glasgow and Campbeltown.

After all as campaigners point out, Article 174 of the Lisbon Treaty committed the Europe Union to take action to reduce disparities between different areas, particularly remote communities with low populations.

Contextual targeting label: 
Travel

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