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A bridge from Mull to Morvern would take islanders to the mainland via one of the country’s ‘most isolated’ peninsulas, while a tunnel linking the two would also be prohibitively expensive.
That is the view of Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, which represents views of local ferry users.
The comments came in the wake of last week’s publication of the long-awaited Strategic Transport Projects Review 2 (STPR 2) which as well as a fixed link (bridge or tunnel) between Mull and the mainland also announced feasibility studies into fixed links across the Sounds of Harris and Barra.
The projects included in the review are the government’s favoured major upgrades to Scotland’s transport system over the next 20 years.
But the committee added any kind of fixed link from Mull to Morvern – if it took the shortest route across the Sound of Mull as currently plied by the Lochaline-Fishnish ferry – would then see travellers faced with no significant town until Fort William after about another one-and-a-half hours’ drive on predominantly single-track roads.
Apart from a bridge, the committee said the alternative of a tunnel would not stack up financially either, since there would be very few balancing cost savings in reduced ferry operations.
The committee continued: ‘The alternative tunnel – to Oban – would need to be about eight miles long, which would make it the longest road tunnel in the UK by quite some margin – difficult to imagine that would be justified for an island of 3,200 people who at the moment show little desire for one.’
Instead of the SNP’s ‘grandiose distraction’, the committee said it wants existing ferry services improved.
Giving his reaction, Fort William and Ardnamurchan councillor Andrew Baxter, whose ward includes Morvern, told the Lochaber Times that no mention in the STPR2 report of a possible fixed link across the Corran Narrows was a glaring omission.
‘If Mull can have a tunnel, what about Transport Scotland acknowledging the long-term challenge of crossing the Corran Narrows. We know a tunnel is an engineering possibility so why hasn’t that been recognised in this transport plan?’
And Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil commented: ‘We must catch up with people like the Faroese who have been linking the islands, over lengths of 10km, at about £10 million per km to construct. Over 25 years this is very doable and affordable. This could revolutionise transport on the islands.
‘The tunnel link to Mull would obviously benefit Mull, but also Coll and Tiree, and could make Tobermory the port in the south end of the west coast.’
But a 2019 survey by Mull and Iona Ferry Committee found 60 per cent of those asked disagreed with a tunnel from Mull to Oban.
‘Rather than distracting us with grandiose plans for 20 years hence, what is really needed is a two to five year plan to fix the chronically dysfunctional and expensive ferry system,’ added the committee.
‘A tunnel to Mull is by no means an easy task. The most practical place to install a fixed link is across the sound of Mull to Morvern. That would replace the small, dependable and frequent Lochaline-Fishnish ferry.
‘However, there would still be a strong need to retain a ferry to Oban, because Oban is our closest mainland town. It is our local service centre, where our children go to school and the shortest route to central Scotland.’
CAPTION; The report suggests a fixed link from Mull to the mainland could be made via a tunnel or bridge. Photograph: Joe Reade/Mull and Iona Ferry Committee. NO_T04_Mull tunnel_01