Islanders claim that a transport crisis is looming on Mull and Iona because the council has failed to repair a busy pier.
As visitor numbers soar the council owned Craignure Pier, where locals and visitors heading for both islands disembark, has been declared “not fit for purpose”.
Islanders argue that if the pier is not extended, plans by ferry operator CalMac to introduce a second ferry on the route by summer 2020 will be scuppered. Argyll and Bute Council receives £1.4 million a year in pier dues and critics say it has known about the need for repairs for six years.
A 40 per cent increase in the route’s traffic, as a result of the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) in 2015, increased the need for a larger vessel to supplement the Isle of Mull ferry.
A recent Scottish Transport Analysis Guide (STAG) appraisal stated that the north and south berths at the pier were too short for larger ferries.
The report added: “Much of the infrastructure was designed for smaller vehicles and is approaching life expiry. Fendering varies from fair to poor condition.”
Now the council stands accused of failing to invest in vital transport needs and community groups have joined forces to write a letter of protest to the council’s chief executive and leader.
Elizabeth Ferguson, Chair of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, said “We have been campaigning for improvements to Craignure Pier for years, yet the council have done nothing of substance in response.
“It seems that they have also been deaf to the needs of Caledonian MacBrayne, who have been planning for this crucial redeployment for years.”
Billy McClymont, convener of Mull and Iona Community Council, added: “The council profit from the pier dues we pay as a part of our tickets to the tune of £1.4m a year, yet precious little of that money has been re-invested in the pier that is the island’s lifeline.”
The Oban to Mull route is one of the most over-subscribed of all CalMac services, with locals often unable to travel in the summer months due to a lack of vehicle spaces.
The arrival of a second larger ship has been awaited by islanders but can’t go ahead unless the council improves and lengthens the pier. Shiona Ruhemann, from Iona Community Council, said: “Reliable ferry links are essential for our fragile communities.”