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Bridge or tunnel studied to replace ferry


15 May 2020

investigations are underway into the idea of replacing a ferry service in northwest Scotland with a tunnel or a bridge. 

The Corran ferry, operated by Highland Council, crosses Loch Linnhe at the Corran Narrows, southwest of Fort William. The loch at this point is about 300 metres wide. The ferry connects the A82 Glasgow-Fort William road on the east side with the A861 on the west and is said to be the busiest single-vessel ferry crossing in Europe. 

Consultant Stantec has explored the idea of replacing the ferry with a bridge or tunnel for Highland Council, the Highlands and Islands transport partnership (Hitrans), and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  

“Significant investment in new vessels, infrastructure and human resource is required in the near future, prompting the question as to whether a ferry or a fixed link represents the best long-term value for money solution when considered in the widest sense (i.e. social and economic in addition to financial outcomes),” says Stantec.

Six bridge designs have been assessed, with capital costs ranging from £42m to £78m after applying 66 pre cent optimism bias. A tunnel has a cost range of £66m-£108m, again with 66 per cent optimism bias. 

Hitrans partnership manager Neil Macrae told LTT the report had been submitted to Transport Scotland with a view to the project being considered in the Scottish Government’s ongoing strategic transport projects review. 

Stantec says it is “reasonable to conclude that a Corran Narrows fixed link will lead to significant traffic generation”. 

“This is likely to be due to a combination of: (i) latent demand for journeys that are currently suppressed by the limitations associated with the ferry service – including peninsula residents making more frequent trips to Fort William and elsewhere to access services; (ii) increased visitor numbers, particularly in terms of ‘unplanned’ or spontaneous trips; and (iii) additional journeys generated by 24-hour connectivity.”

A fixed link could support population retention and growth, “although any effects would be long-term and difficult to attribute directly to the crossing given that many factors impact on population numbers and structure”.

Macrae said work would now be undertaken on the economic benefits of a fixed link. Bridge heights will be examined to protect shipping. A public consultation is also planned. 

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