A reader from the Jura blog sent me a link to a somewhat alarming article on the Herald website. In the article is written that there is a possiblity that the Jura Passenger ferry will cease before the end of the three year trial period due to a lack of funding. Not only the fact that this could happen six weeks earlier than planned, it is also a bad sign for the continuation of the passenger ferry next year.
unless £12,500 can be found soon, the first direct ferry service to the mainland in almost 40 years will have to cease in the middle of next month – six weeks before the end of a three-year pilot. If that happens nobody knows whether the ferry, which runs from the beginning of April to the end of September, will ever start again. The fast passenger route was launched by a community company in 2008 with grant aid from Argyll and Bute Council.
Deborah Bryce, community plan co-ordinator with the Jura Development Trust, said the direct ferry was vitally important to the island. “It has carried over 6000 passengers since it began in 2008 and generated around £30,000 per annum to the local community supporting and helping to sustain local businesses,” she said. “If we lost the ferry we would not be going back to where we started, but further back. Since the ferry began we have a new award-winning restaurant, The Antlers, a privately owned hotel and more visitor accommodation. The community have now lost their sense of isolation and look forward to what and who the ferry brings.” She said the trust would be contacting the council to ask for help funding the shortfall so the service can finish its trial. “We now have accurate figures that indicate the ferry needs 55 to 60% subsidy, which I understand is less than the average subsidy given to most transport services in Argyll, but would certainly make it viable,” she added.
Direct access to Jura has been a problem ever since 1972, the last time a MacBrayne’s ferry provided a service to the mainland. For decades there was debate over a ferry crossing between Jura and Argyll that Islay drovers used to get cattle to market 200 years ago. Many feared it would turn Jura into a busy thoroughfare for its more populous neighbour. Perhaps the Scottish Ferry Review can come up with answer to this urgent problem. Looking at the population of the island one might come to the conclusion that they should have their own Calmac ferry, just like smaller islands such as Gigha, Rum, Lismore etc. In the meanwhile the Argyll and Bute council are doing everything they can to obtain the necessary funds to let the ferry run until the end of the summer season but it is by no means sure that they will succeed. Fingers crossed!