I usually write Jura news on the Jura Blog but I believe that the following news can also be very interesting for the readers of the Islay Blog. A couple of weeks ago the (very near) future of the Jura Passenger Ferry was under threat due to a lack of funds. It is well known that this ferry service is heavily subsidised, which is nothing new of course, the Calmac ferries are heavily subsidised too. The problems occured when the operators found out that they were hitting rock bottom, financially that is. Therefore they needed more money urgently to secure the services until the end of the agreed trial period, which was set at the end of September.
The Jura Passenger Ferry moored in Craighouse
The following article was published in the Ileach titled "Currie helps secure survival package for Jura Ferry" The award winning community run passenger ferry that operates to Jura from Tayvallich will continue to the end of September following the intervention of local Councillor, Robin Currie. The ferry service was due to end its 3 year trial period at end of September but due to the financial assistance being used up earlier than expected, the service would have had to come to an end around the end of August. A couple of weeks ago Argyll and Bute Council were made aware by an urgent motion submitted by Councillor Currie that the operators of the Jura Passenger Service faced a financial short fall of Â£11,700 which if not dealt with would have the service terminated at the weekend. On the basis that the local community had raised Â£1,700 towards this shortfall and that Highlands and Islands had agreed to contribute Â£5,000, the Council agreed to contribute the outstanding balance of Â£5,000 to allow the three year trial to conclude as planned. Continue reading....
Speaking at the Council Meeting, Cllr. Currie said, "the Jura Passenger Service has been a tremendous success with over 7,000 passengers being carried over the two and a half summer seasons and has been of great economic benefit to the island. The amount of subsidy for the service is going down all the time and the numbers using the service keeps going up and up. The problem was that too little support was asked for at the start. I certainly hope that this can be a permanent service and will operate for many years to come."
I don't want to be pessimistic but as far as I understand it has not been decided yet that the Jura Passenger Ferry will continue next year. The council's budget is under enormous pressure which doesn't make things easier. On the other hand it's remarkable to say the least that an island the size of Jura and a population of over 200 doesn't have its own regular (car) ferry connected to the mainland, but has to depend on the Port Askaig (Islay) to Feolin (Jura) ferry. This makes a trip to Jura hours longer than really needed and an impossible destination for a daytrip, Jura also doesn't have an airfield. There are islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland with a smaller population than Jura that don't have a whisky distillery but do have their own state subsidised Calmac car ferry service (Gigha, Lismore, Small Isles etc). It would be good for Jura, or should I use the words "vital" and "absolutely necessary" if at least the Passenger Ferry would continue next year and become a regular part of the transportation network and not a trial or temporary service. In the meanwhile we'll keep on dreaming about a regular, year round, car ferry service.