Council steps up after Jura pier pressure

The ladder providing access to the passenger ferry had been cited as dangerous by Jura residents.

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A ‘dangerous’ ladder on a Jura pier, which formed a link in the council’s lifeline ferry service, will be replaced by a gangway and pontoon after islanders complained it was ‘unsafe’.

The £100,000 revamp is in a raft of regeneration projects totalling £600,000, approved by Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy and Resource Committee on June 16, which also includes improvements to Helensburgh Pier and Tobermory Harbour.

The Crown Estates funding, a council report explains, will provide Jura’s ‘community with the means to safely board and exit the small replacement craft used as a passenger-only link when the larger vessels cannot sail. The access needs to provide a safe sloped access and floating staging area for passengers which can accommodate the small craft alongside’.

Last month The Oban Times reported how Jura’s 200 islanders again had to use a rusty, 12ft high ladder at Feolin pier to board the council’s lifeline ferry service after its ‘ageing’ vehicle ferry MV Eilean Dhiura was replaced by a passenger-only RIB. That time, on Monday May 16, it was not due to a technical issue, but a lack of crew.

‘Anger and despair’ grew among Jurachs, not just about the ladder or their continued calls for a safer replacement, but about the council’s ‘deteriorating’ ferry service to Port Askaig on Islay, which connects to the CalMac ferry to the mainland.

It reached breaking point for Jura Community Council, which ‘lost faith in Argyll and Bute Council as a ferry service provider’.

‘Once again, we are faced with a situation where 80-year-olds, parents with babies and pets must scale an unsafe rusty ladder to embark and disembark from the island,’ wrote Neil Gow, a Jura community councillor, in a plea to MSPs for help.

Ariane Burgess, Highlands and Islands MSP (Green), said at the time: ‘Islanders have a right to expect a decent ferry service and it is extremely concerning that once again the service being provided is substandard.

‘The current situation is simply not good enough. The council must explain what steps it will take to provide an adequate ferry service that the communities can rely on.’

Argyll and Bute’s SNP MSP Jenni Minto, who lives on Islay, added: ‘As Jura is an island off an island, the reliability of both the council-run Jura ferry and the CalMac services to Islay is essential to support this thriving population. I have raised the concerns over the unsafe ladder with the council.’

Another Highlands and Islands MSP, Conservative Donald Cameron, put the blame higher up the chain. ‘Ultimately the provision of lifeline ferry services, like the one to Jura, are the responsibility of the Scottish Government,’ he said.

‘That SNP ministers have failed to intervene and allowed the situation to deteriorate to this extent is negligent and a failure of their duty of care to this community.

‘They need to provide proper resources and not rely on the council, which they have underfunded for years, to do the job for them. Local people deserve far better than this.’

Argyll and Bute’s SNP MP Brendan O’Hara blamed council cuts. ‘Argyll and Bute Council should never have allowed this situation to arise,’ he said.

‘The level of disruption that islanders and visitors are facing because of this service is detrimental to everyone and makes island living increasingly difficult.

‘The Jura ferry service has been continually cut back since the council’s takeover of this route and I worry Argyll and Bute Council is not considering or consulting on the community and their needs when making crucial decisions.

‘I hope and expect to see this situation rectified before someone is seriously hurt as a result.’

A council spokesperson responded: ‘We have invested in new engines and major structural works to the Jura ferry. We are also considering applying for funding to install a floating pontoon and gangway and looking to include a new ferry for Jura via the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.’

The Jura ferry operator seems to have taken island concerns on board.

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