We’re trying hard to reduce our personal car use both on and off the island, but transport is probably the most difficult area for us to tackle to make a significant reduction in CO2. In the battle of good, bad and the downright ugly, solutions are not always straightforward.
Most of the Eigg population live on the north west side of the island, while the pier, shop and other facilities are on the south east side, 4.5 single track miles and two steep hills away.
Eigg currently has one electric vehicle, a milk float owned by Bob and Norah at Earth Connections Sustainability Centre. We’d like to have more; particularly an electric minibus to provide year round community transport for locals and visitors alike.
Our community car, telehandler and other community vehicles run in part on bio-diesel that we make ourselves from chip oil courtesy of the Cal Mac ferry.
Some people cycle, two on electric bikes, and the children at Eigg Primary have Walk to School Wednesdays when they walk instead of taking the school bus.
Working with the Highland Council, we’ve created 10 new passing places on our single track road. This makes cycling and walking safer but also means that we can start replacing four wheel drive cars, currently needed in the winter to go off road (very very muddy) and let other road users past, with smaller, lower emission vehicles.
We share cars to commnity meetings, dances, yoga and other events as much as possible.
First Scotrail sponsored Eigg’s Big Green Challenge Year by providing each resident with a free West Highland Rail card which significantly reduces the cost of rail travel between Mallaig and Glasgow.
We’re doing a feasibility study to set up Scotland’s first rural, community car club which, if shown to be viable, will create a pool of low emission cars for use by residents of Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Knoydart and the four Small Isles, including Eigg.
Car ownership on Eigg, ironically, is higher than the Scottish average. Part of the reason for this is cars on the island are MOT exempt (they do need insurance and road tax). With no public transport and a ready supply of cheap MOT failures that only need to travel short distances at low speed, car ownership is a cheap and easy option.
Even MOT failures give up eventually. A lot of vehicles are kept for spare parts, but those that are past even that have to be disposed of legally. This means arranging to have them taken off the island to be scrapped. We have a system where we can do this four cars at a time using a local freight boat, but coordinating this can be complicated.
Public transport links on the mainland don’t always make it easy to use the train. While some ferries link up with the trains or buses, depending where you’re trying to get to other do not, especially in the winter months.
The main lifeline ferry from Mallaig to Eigg uses many thousands of litres of fuel for its journey to Eigg and the rest of the Small Isles. The small passenger ferry that operates in the summer months also uses a significant amount. Could we as islanders cope without them? No, we’re dependent on them for getting ourselves on and off the island, for importing and exporting goods and for bringing the all important visitors on whom our economy so strongly relies.
There will be a solution one day, in the meantime we can lobby for the change to come quickly, while doing our best to tackle things we have power over ourselves, here on the island itself.