Hebridean Transport - closing the gap
1) The Golden Road
A short walk south from Tarbert/Harris along the main
road (A859), which leads from Tarbert to Rodel, a sign post invites the
visitor to follow a winding track southeast towards the east coast of
Harris. "Drinishader 2 1/2 m, Scadabay 5 m, (Golden Road)" is
what the the sign says. The name is ironical. The half official name was
given by the locals to show their anger over the cost of providing a narrow
road along a rough coast line already 70 years after a Royal Commission
was told that the conditions of transport in the area were desperately
calling for improvement. The story goes that under "normal"
environmental conditions the road could have been paved with gold for
the amount of money paid for the whole project.
2) Rhenigidale - a village "behind the hill"
Until 1997 the only way to reach Rhenigidale was by fishing boat or via the scenic foot path across the hill from Tarbert. For generations all supplies have been carried either way, a strenuous task if we think of coal, food, mail and especially cases of human emergency. Now a 7 mile long dead end road leads straight into the village. This helped to prevent the final depopulation in virtually the last minute. The neighbouring village of Molingeanais had been abandoned a few decades ago. Its remains are still to be found if one followes a hardly visible path off the nature trail leading from Tarbert to Rhenigidale.
1) Skye Bridge - Gateway to the Outer Hebrides
A much debated project which has cost 39 million (ca 110 Millionen DM) - 24 million of which are being paid for by tax payers and regular toll payers until the total revenue collected reaches ca 24m - has been finished in 1995. It has thus substituted the two ferries that were running every few minutes from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin (Isle of Skye). The ferries were free for passengers and cyclists and, as far as I know, island locals were not charged either.
Now the ferries are gone. The crossing of the bridge is a must and so is the payment of the bridge toll. Complaints about the tolls have become a topic in higher administrative circles up to the Houses of Parliament, letters have been sent to the Prime Minister. The debate is still going on. Some of the islanders are still furious.
and this is what the islanders are so furious about:
These are the ONE WAY prices from 1st January 1999
for further details visit the Skye Bridge main page
The bridge which is connecting the islands of Harris and
Scalpay since 12/1997, and which came into use almost nine months prior
to its official opening, has improved economic development and social
access. A 65% grant from the European Union through Objective One funding
helped considerably to proceed with the 300m long construction which carries
vehicles and pedestrians as well as the water supply for the island.
Although being officially opened by lesser officials than the Prime Minister, the Causeway connecting Berneray/Harris(ca 150 inhabitants) to North Uist was no less an event for the islanders themselves than was the opening of Scalpay bridge. Although viewed first with a doubtful eye by some of them I have hardly ever seen so many of the islanders attend an island happening and I have never seen the people moved so much by an event.
An island inhabited for centuries and the islanders being
used to travelling by passenger ferry, a six
car vehicle ferry, and an even bigger
car ferry since 1996 are now part of the neighbouring
island of North Uist. The impact of the causeway for an increase of population
hopefully remains to be only a matter of time. Simple tasks for mainlanders
like shopping trips, carrying construction material and secondary school
access for children have been subject to weather conditions, tidal conditions
and ferry time tables. Cultural events, although not rare on Berneray
itself, are now much easier to reach. There will never again be a "last
ferry" to catch.
The island of Eriskay has also been connected to the neighbouring
South Uist by a causeway. The 1.6 km causeway is part of the £9.4m
Eriskay and Sound of Barra transport project.
|There are quite a few more bridges and causeways which all contribute to the comfort of traveling along the Western Isles' spinal route. Others connect smaller islands to the next larger ones.||view in full width browser window for optimum results|
|location||type of link||date||cost||info|
|Great Bernera (West Lewis)||bridge||finished in 1953,
opened on Wednesday July 22
|£70,000||first pre-stressed concrete bridge in UK|
|Baleshare (North Uist)||causeway, 350 metres||built in 1962||.||The causeway links the island of Baleshare with
neighbouring North Uist.
Baleshare's population had fallen from 67 ten years before to 55 in 1991.
Meanwhile, formerly inhabited islands which failed to get fixed links in time became totally deserted.
|Loch Bee (South Uist)||causeway, 550 metre||surfaced in the 1930s, widened and raised in the 50ies, since 1990 850 metres of double track road||£372,000 (1990)||The Loch Bee causeway is the the oldest causeway of the Spinal Route dating back to the 18th Century. Built for cart traffic it consisted of drystone walls with shingle and sand between. 1990 the causeway has been improved to full double track road.|
|Berneray (North Uist)||causeway, 0.9 km with 500m approach road on Uist and 167m on Berneray||started in 04/1998, connected in 08/1998, opened in the last days of 1998, officially opened on Thu April 8, 1999 by Prince Charles||£6.6 millio||A crowd of 350 people, a TV-helicopter, a bagpipe tune, a breezy drizzle and a rare tension in the air were the components of this historical afternoon, when the gap between North Uist and Bernray was closed and the islanders hurried to walk across towards Otternish. Details: 300,000 m3 of rock, provision for marine creatures: otter culverts and a culvert for fish, cetaceans and other sea mammals.|
|North Ford (Benbecula - North Uist)||causeway, five miles||opened on Wednesday September 7, 1960 by Queen Mother||.||longest causeway on the Western Isles connecting Gramisdale in Benbecula with Carinish in North Uist. There are nine passing places to each mile and three bridges along its length, two to allow for boats to reach the main channels and one for drainage.|
|South Ford (South Uist)||bridge/ causeway||bridge completed 1942,
the cares of the War prevented the King from participating in the opening ceremony, bridge replaced by acauseway on Nov. 18, 1982
|£2.2 million (causeway)||In 1983 the new two-lane causeway replaced the South Ford bridge, which due to the damage done by the elements was in need of repair. The South Ford causeway was officially opened with a Gaelic ceremony held in a howling gale. After cutting the ceremonial ribbon a local girl, Mod winner Mairi Macinnes, aged 18, sang two Gaelic songs at the conclusion of the event .|
|Kildonan (South Uist)||causeway, 220 m||improved to a 3-metre wide road in the 60s, resurfaced &strengthened after a storm damage in 1984||.£40,000 (after 1984)||The 220 metre causeway across Loch
Kildonan in South Uist is one of the earliest crossings, having
originally been built for cart traffic decades ago.
(South of Barra)
|started in 1989,
finished in 1990
|£3.7 million||Work on the causeway between Vatersay and Barra started in 1989. The project presented a considerable challenge because it linked the Atlantic Ocean on one side with the Minch on the other - 75 miles out from the mainland und thus permanently subject to the often severe powers of the tides and gales.|