Replacing one of the last remaining ferries running between two parts of the Highland mainland, with a bridge or causeway capable of generating green energy, is to be investigated.

It is a prospect welcomed by the renewable energy sector.

Highland Council made the commitment as an agreement was struck to limit fare increases on its Corran Ferry. It operates across narrows on Loch Linnhe where there is a strong tidal race, which was already used for the ground-breaking test of a tidal turbine two decades ago.

The fares decision followed a sustained campaign by local residents who repeatedly warned higher charges would herald depopulation.

The Corran Ferry allows access to and from the remote and fragile communities of Ardgour, Morvern and Ardnamurchan , with many using it to commute to Fort William every day for work.

But Highland Council officials had recommended that councillors approve a 4 per cent increase in fares from April 1 with the prospect of annual increases of 4 per cent likely to be required in each of the following two years. This was to reduce the deficit in the running costs of the ferry service.

It would have taken the cost from to £8.20 per car for the 500-yard crossing, which campaigners say makes it one of the shortest and most expensive ferry services in the UK. A book of 30 tickets for a car or small van would increase to £72.00.

But the council agreed to increase fares by 2% from April 2015. This involves an increase of 15p per journey for car fares and an increase of just 4p per journey for those who buy the discounted book of tickets. Pedal cycles and registered disabled drivers will remain free.

In addition the council agreed to develop a "robust business plan" which in the short-term focuses on savings and efficiencies but in the longer term explores the potential of renewable energy in a fixed crossing. That could be five years away but there is already interest in the green energy sector in harnessing the tidal rush at the Corran Narrows as part of a bridge or causeway.

Lindsay Leask, Senior Policy Manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, said: "It is great to see Highland Council considering the potential for integrating renewable energy generation when debating an infrastructure investment of this scale.

"Many people may not be aware that the site already has a prestigious history in the renewables sector, as the world's first tidal turbine was tested in the Corran Narrows in the mid-1990s, laying the foundation for Scottish success in this sector which continues to this day."

The council also pledged to investigate how European State Aids regulations blocked he authority subsidising the ferry, something which has sharply divided opinion.

Graham Mackenzie chair of Highland's Community Services Committee said it had become apparent to him "that the trust that needs to exist between a council and its communities had been eroded " on the issue of the Corran Ferry and that trust had to be rebuilt. So there had been fresh negotiations with the communities affected.

Fort William and Ardnamurch councillor Thomas Maclennan said "As a way forward it is a solution it has the agreement and support of all the local councillors and indeed the local community."