Dualling the A77/A75 trunk roads linking Scotland and England with Northern Ireland would bring £5 billion of “positive benefits” to the UK economy, according to a new report.
The report commissioned by South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Mid and East Antrim Councils suggests benefits range from reduced journey times and vehicle operating costs (£700 million) to combined CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) savings of around £95 million.
The Strategic and Economic Impacts Report for the councils by independent transport consultancy Sweco, 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.
It says 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”.
Councillor Martin Dowey, Leader of South Ayrshire Council said: “This is a call to action for the Scottish Government. 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.
“When recognition goes past promises to real investment, that’s when we’ll be working towards a new future for our region.”
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.”
Rail improvements are also considered in the report, including dedicated freight facilities at Barrhill, Cairnryan port and Ayr. The report estimates that purely diesel trains running from Stranraer to Birmingham could save over 20-million-kilogram of CO2e per year compared to moving the equivalent load by HGV.
The report does not include cost estimates, but focusses on the benefits of interventions, such as 155 miles (250km) of improved dualling, junctions and bypasses and 174 miles (280km) of electrified rail infrastructure.
It says costs would follow if any of the proposals moved to the design stage.
You can view or download the report and a supporting video here.
(Picture – South Ayrshire Council)