£5bn boost for Northern Ireland, Scotland and England if key route dualled, says report
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Benefits range from reduced journey times and vehicle operating costs (£700 million) to combined CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) savings of around £95 million, according to the document.
Commissioned by South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Mid and East Antrim councils and undertaken by independent transport consultancy Sweco, the Strategic and Economic Impacts Report looks at seven options – from bypasses of key towns and rail improvements to full dualling.
The roads, which run from Ayr to Stranraer in Dumfries and Galloway and from Stranraer to Gretna, are mainly single carriageway with heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) restricted to a 40mph speed limit causing heavy tailbacks.
Congestion is commonplace when the routes go through towns and villages, and on southern stretches of the A77 landslides are frequent.
The A75 and A77 form part of what the Union Connectivity Review terms the North Channel Corridor, citing them as “critical for connectivity for passengers and freight between England, Scotland and Northern Ireland”. The review recommended the UK Government offer the Scottish Government funding to upgrade the A75, and encouraged the Scottish Government to improve the A77.
And now the three councils are calling for urgent action from the Scottish and UK Governments to transform “these vital conduits for communities and commerce”.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams, said: “The Northern Ireland economy depends heavily on the transport connections with Scotland, and the onward network plays a crucial role in facilitating this connectivity. Upgrading the A77/A75 will significantly improve the connectivity between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom and provide local businesses with significant benefits.”
Councillor Martin Dowey, leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: “These proposals could not only save lives but would generate billions of pounds of transformational benefits.
“We have deliberately included a number of localised solutions such as a bypass-only option, but it’s clear that these smaller fixes would not generate the same impact as full dualling. This option combined with rail improvements would vastly reduce journey times and greatly benefit transport users, businesses and the working population.
“I would encourage the Scottish and UK Governments to read the report and engage with us to find workable solutions.”
Councillor Gail Macgregor, leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, said: “In our newly launched five-year Council Plan we talk about Dumfries and Galloway as a strategic location with a transport corridor linking England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“Upgrading the A75 and A77 – these vital conduits for communities and commerce – would unlock this transport corridor and with it the potential of south west Scotland.
“What we want is recognition from the Scottish and UK Government of the key role transport and travel has on improving our communities and economy. Recognition at Government level that there is a need to invest in the A75 and A77 routes. And recognition of the importance of our ports and that there is an economic imperative to protect their competitiveness.”
Rail improvements are also considered in the report, including dedicated freight facilities at Barrhill, Cairnryan port and Ayr.
The report on the council websites: