A new report has revealed that dualling the A77/A75 trunk roads linking Scotland and England with Northern Ireland would bring £5 billion of ‘positive benefits’ to the UK economy.
Benefits include reduced journey times and vehicle operating costs as well as significant CO2e savings.
Commissioned by South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Mid and East Antrim Councils and undertaken by 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. The review recommended the UK Government offer the Scottish Government funding to upgrade the A75 and encouraged the Scottish Government to improve the A77.
The three councils are now calling for urgent action from the Scottish and UK Governments.
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, added, “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.”
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams, commented, “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 focuses on the benefits of interventions, such as 155 miles of improved dualling, junctions and bypasses and 174 miles of electrified rail infrastructure.
Costs would follow if any of the proposals moved to the design stage.