Skye/ a bridge too dear

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The Independent Online
DESPITE the prospect of no more long waits for an expensive, unreliable ferry, the residents of Skye, which is due to be linked to the mainland by a £30m bridge, opening this summer, are unhappy, writes Michael Hanlon.

"No toll bridge" say the stickers on many islanders' cars. What they are unhappy about is not the bridge itself but the tolls, which, at £10.80 for a return crossing, will make this bridge the dearest in Europe. A Skye hotelier said: "These tolls are extortionate, it's as simple as that. What when you consider road tax and everything, it's a bloody disgrace. It's going to be a disaster for business."

When plans for the bridge were announced four years ago, there was a split on the island between the locals, who mostly welcomed the bridge, and the "white settlers" - immigrants unhappy at the thought of Skye becoming part of the mainland. Now, that division has gone. The toll prices came as a shock - most people were expecting to pay £1 or so to cross the bridge - and other problems have emerged. "I think the whole island is going to suffer as a result of the bridge," said Ian Sikorski, who owns the White Heather Hotel in Kyleakin and stands to lose business from passing traffic as the bridge will bypass the town. William Reid, the chairman of Kyleakin Community Council, said locals were not united in their opposition to the bridge, simply because of the tolls. Ironically, the bridge, built privately and financed entirely by tolls, will be a drain on the public purse. Publicly-owned Caledonian MacBrayne, the ferry company, made so much money on the Skye route that it used the profits to subsidise its other, loss-making routes. Now that money will be lost and the taxpayer will have to foot the bill.