The research was commissioned to identify and assess longer term options for ferry provision to Kerrera. A number of specific infrastructure issues were also to be investigated. The level of work required was akin to pre-appraisal STAG and part 1 STAG.
The work was undertaken between November 2012 and February 2013. It comprised:
- Face-to-face and telephone consultations with the island community and other stakeholders.
- Review of existing documents.
- An engineering review which included an inspection of existing infrastructure.
A public meeting was held on Kerrera in early February 2013. Feedback and comment received was fed into our option assessment.
The review of the existing position identified the problems:
- Lack of financial sustainability of the two main ferry services if either were to be developed to meet the community's needs.
- Lack of a north-south road on the island.
- The ferry timetables do not meet customer needs.
- Current ferry access is largely not assured, consistent or equitable.
- The (very) tidal nature of the vehicle ferry slipway.
- Limited vehicle carrying capacity of the vehicle ferry.
There is a consensus around the main development opportunities for Kerrera, and on the potential to expand the resident population. These are based on increased visitor activity and spend on the island, and establishment of micro-businesses in sectors other than tourism. However, there are differing stakeholder views on the scale of development that is possible without changing the distinctive nature of the island.
Rather than "constraints" on the development of ferry access to Kerrera the following are better viewed as parameters within which a long term solution would operate. They are that Transport Scotland:
- See a north-south road link on Kerrera as a prerequisite to a long term solution to ferry service provision that meets the needs of the whole island.
- Will provide financial support for only one ferry service to the island.
- In line with the National Ferries Plan, are minded to strengthen and augment an existing route, rather than start up a new route.
- In the longer term, will financially support a service only if its fares are RET-based and the timetable reflects the Scottish Ferries Review methodology.
A further (community derived) parameter is retaining the current practice that only residents are able to have a car on the island.
The timetable requirements for the ferry service were established through our consultations and by applying the service methodology used in the Scottish Ferries Review. This points to a requirement for the following ferry service provision:
- Fast crossing time.
- Moderate number of crossings per day.
- Long operating day, around 14 hours.
- Seven day service.
Four transport planning objectives were developed:
- Develop community and economic links within and between Kerrera and the mainland.
- Allow all residents to benefit from improved access to mainland-based services and facilities.
- Improve the quality and accessibility of the complete journey from home to destination.
- Secure for all users affordable and assured means of access to support economic activity and quality of life.
An initial list of individual options was developed. They were assessed against the transport planning objectives and in terms of their complementarity to one another.
The outcomes were used to put together the best performing individual options into meaningful packages for the purpose of the option assessment. These were:
- Do Minimum-using existing vehicle ferry route.
- A: enhanced ferry service on existing vehicle ferry route, plus road investment on Kerrera (link road from north to middle of Kerrera and upgraded south road).
- B: enhanced ferry service on existing vehicle ferry route, no road investment.
- C: direct vehicle ferry service to Oban, plus road investment on Kerrera (link road from north to middle of Kerrera and upgraded south road).
- D: direct vehicle ferry service to Oban, no road investment.
Each package was assessed in terms of its performance against:
- Transport planning objectives.
- Each of the five STAG criteria.
- Established policy directives.
They were also assessed in terms of feasibility, affordability (cost to government) and public acceptability.
We concluded that the Do Minimum, Option B and D should be rejected. This is very largely because none would provide a north-south link road on Kerrera. As a consequence these options performed relatively poorly in terms of meeting transport planning objectives, STAG criteria and public acceptability.
The options assessment identified the strengths and weaknesses of Option A and Option C. For both, taking affordability and the level of benefits into account, forestry grade would be the most appropriate specification for a north-south road. The case for also upgrading the island's south road is less strong. This reflects that it would not be used by all island residents, while it is already used by vehicle traffic. Its cost would be significant while the level of benefits would be less than for a north-south link.
Compared to Option A, Option C potentially offers greater benefits through direct ferry access to Oban for residents and visitors. However, it includes a number of challenges. The main ones are getting long-term assured access to a slipway on the marina site and securing appropriate parking for residents' vehicles in Oban. In addition, the engineering assessment shows that the cost of marine infrastructure would be higher than under Option A.
Overall, the increase in visitor activity under Options A and C assumes that there is some form of wheeled transport provided on Kerrera, at least to allow some visitors to visit both the north and south of the island. We would expect this to be bikes for hire, and cars/minibus operated by one or more local residents or a social enterprise.
From the option appraisal we conclude that Option A amended to exclude a south road upgrade appears the most affordable and achievable overall solution. It would offer significant benefits and very largely meet the current transport needs of the community.
However, the clients should take into account the potential longer term benefits of a direct service into Oban-as well as deliverability and cost issues-in coming to a decision.