A former Rothesay school pupil has added his tuppence-worth to the lively debate over the merits (or otherwise) of a bridge across the Kyles of Bute - by creating a concept design for such a link.
Ross Mackenzie, who went to Rothesay Primary School and Rothesay Academy, is currently studying at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh - and chose the subject of a Kyles bridge as the basis of his dissertation.
Ross said: “As I grew up on the island, I knew that the topic of a fixed link is one that crops up occasionally and polarizes opinions.
“Even though it has been debated for decades, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the idea; like what type of fixed link would be most feasible, what it would cost or what it could look like.
“So, as a structural engineering with architectural design student, this is something I wanted to look into and formed the perfect dissertation topic for me. I wanted to find the most feasible fixed link option and design a solution that could give the discussion of a fixed link validity.
“Recently, a fixed link has been mentioned again as the Argyll and Bute Council released a report on the findings of an economic forum. It suggested that a fixed link at Colintraive should be given “serious consideration” due to the issues the island faces with its economy.
“As I studied the Skye Bridge, I found that there are strong parallels that can be drawn between Bute and Skye when considering a fixed link. The Skye Bridge is a good example of the potential a fixed link has to improve business and quality of living. Therefore, it is clear why looking into a fixed link for Bute has been recommended by the report.
“I found that the most feasible fixed link would cross the Kyles of Bute from Rhubodach to Colintraive, approximately where the current ferry operates. As the closest point to the mainland, this route would reduce the cost and environmental/visual impact of any fixed link design.
“The option of a tunnel was considered but the high costs associated with constructing and maintaining a tunnel would make it impractical.
“A low-level bridge with a lifting section for boats was also studied. However, it would also result in an expensive structure, as it would demand operational costs and significant maintenance during its lifetime.
“Therefore, a bridge that provided around 30 metres of clearance for boats and was designed in such a way that it was not detrimental to the beautiful landscape of the Kyles of Bute, would provide the most feasible solution.
“I aimed towards designing a high-level bridge that created a spectacle. I wanted the design to reflect the path of a skimming stone, starting at Rhubodach and bouncing across the water to Colintraive.
“My design is a concrete, multiple arch bridge that provides 30 meters clearance at high tides, which I have initially estimated
at £14-16 million in construction costs. I have been calling it ‘A Stone’s Throw.’
“The Kyles of Bute are of undeniable natural beauty and this bridge sets out to celebrate this. The aim was to not only connect the island to the mainland, but to create an expressive structure that enhances the connection of the island to the mainland.”