It crosses one of the most scenic waterways in Scotland and is the second busiest by volume of passengers in the country.

But the Corran ferry in Lochaber could soon be consigned to the history books as councillors look to replace it with a bridge or tunnel.

The current ageing ferry on the route across the Corran Narrows at the foot of Loch Linnhe, has only recently returned to service after a technical breakdown.

A new report says a fixed link is feasible at Corran from an engineering, planning and economic perspective and deserves more detailed examination and costing.

At one point, the crossing was noted for the unusual sign “This is not the Ballachulish Ferry”, which was erected to avoid confusion with the nearby Ballachulish ferry which crossed Loch Leven before it was replaced by a bridge in 1976.

The conclusion of a high level feasibility study jointly funded by HITRANS, the regional transport partnership, The Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, will help support the case for the link.

They believe the fixed link would dramatically improve connectivity between Lochaber and the west Highland peninsulas and provide improved access to services and employment opportunities for those living in Ardnamurchan, Sunart, Morvern and also Mull.

In the study conducted by transport consultants, Stantec, a total of 72 scenarios were examined including an option for a tunnel to the south of the ferry route as well as routes for bridging the narrows which were set against the costs of enhancing the existing ferry provision.

Three options for a fixed link are a tunnel, a bridge to be constructed along the existing ferry route and a bridge to be constructed along a central corridor, to the south of the ferry route which is nine miles south of Fort William on teh A82.

Estimated construction costs of delivering this lifeline connection range from between £42m - £50m for the lowest cost bridge option through to £66m - £108million for a tunnel option.

Transport Scotland is to be approached to support the funding of the project, given its strategic importance to the Scottish economy and to meet the goals of the new National Transport Strategy.

In moving the project forward, the project partners believe there would be significant benefit in developing a single, umbrella Strategic Business Case considering the comparative merits of ferry and fixed link-based solutions.

Separately, The Highland Council is progressing an outline business case which is focused on the immediate transport problems associated with the ferry service to ensure short to mediumterm sustainability.

This involves cost modelling of a replacement ferry vessel and comparing what a retention or a transfer of responsibilities model will look like over a 30-year period.

The Corran Narrows ferry has the second highest volume of vehicles carried by a ferry service in Scotland.

Councillor Allan Henderson, Chair of HITRANS and Vice-Convener of The Highland Council, said: “The Corran Ferry is the second busiest route in Scotland, providing a lifeline service to the remote communities of Ardnamurchan, Morvern and Mull.

“The current service, operated with an ageing vessel and limited crew numbers, is no longer sustainable as demand increases, so we need to consider the best option for upgrading the crossing of the Narrows.

“Doing nothing is not an option. I am very pleased that the feasibility study has demonstrated the viability of a fixed link, which will be a huge benefit to local residents - reducing their travel time and removing the need to pay significant ferry fares.

“From the estimated costs, it is clear that the Council will need the Scottish Government to recognise this infrastructure as part of the delivery of the new National Transport Strategy. Residents can be assured we will all be pressing home our strong case for investment.”

Martin Johnson, interim director of strategy and regional economy at HIE, said: “New fixed links can offer the potential to open up rural areas to additional economic and employment opportunities, which in turn improve community resilience. It is important that these types of infrastructure interventions are considered carefully when identifying the most suitable long-term option for the Corran Narrows crossing.”