This is an update from my point of view as your local councillor, trying to pull together numerous emails, telephone calls and conversations I’ve had in the last 24 hours.
Firstly, I know that many have expressed concern about driving along the A861 from Kinlocheil to Ardgour – mainly as a result of motorists not used to driving on a single-track road. The local police, via Inspector Isla Campbell at Fort William Police Station, have been asked to patrol that section and talk to motorists where appropriate.
The council’s Director of Finance, in the absence of the director normally responsible for transport, is tasked with taking appropriate action to resume the service and make alternative arrangements if this is delayed. I have asked him to investigate a pedestrian only-service with dedicated bus shuttle services either side of the narrows, which would help people getting to work or with hospital appointments in Fort William. I’ve also suggested that if it is likely that there will be an extended loss of service that we should be talking to the Navy about what equipment they have that would be suitable to assist. From previous experience, I understand there are no vessels in the Calmac fleet that can use the slipways.
The fault has been identified as being with the computer system that operates the propellers. An engineer from Germany will be arriving on Wednesday to carry out diagnostics to identify the fault. The engineer is familiar with the ferry and will advise on the solution. The ferry crew have carried out an inspection of all spaces below water and have found no evidence of water ingress. A full-colour visual survey of the hull will also be carried out by ROV (Remote Operative Vehicle) tomorrow.
Local councillors were only told of problems with the refit of the Maid of Glencoul, on Saturday evening. It went for this refit on 6th March. Admittedly, although I use the Corran Ferry frequently I had not noticed it had been away for so long. However, I have previously argued that if there are any delays with the refit for either the MV Corran or Maid of Glencoul then councillors should be informed immediately. This did not happen. The Maid of Glencoul has a steering fault, with a slewing ring failing beyond repair. Due to the age of this vessel, there are no longer any spare parts available, so one is having to be manufactured.
Since Saturday, I’ve asked a barrage of questions on behalf of the community, many reflected in the post above. However, this whole saga requires full scrutiny and I have demanded that senior officers prepare a full report for discussion with local councillors at an Area Committee meeting in August. This meeting will be held in public, not behind closed doors, so that everyone can hear the explanation as to why this has happened with no adequate contingency plans.
In the meantime, I am meeting with the Director of Finance on Wednesday morning to discuss progress and I will update residents after this meeting.