Ministers get insight into port life in talks over road upgrades

Ministers get insight into port life in talks over road upgrades

A UK Government minister saw behind the scenes at Stena Line’s port at Loch Ryan in Dumfries and Galloway as he heard about the importance of improving key roads in south west Scotland.

Message Matters is working with the South West Scotland Transport Alliance (SWSTA) to make the case for upgrading the A75 and A77, which lead to and from the ferry ports at Cairnryan.

The routes are key gateways to and from Northern Ireland – and Europe – from Scotland and demands are growing for action to see them made safer, greener and better.

UK Government Minister for Transport Lord Davies of Gower visited Stena Line recently.

He toured the port, saw its busy operations as one of the firm’s ferries docked and heard how Loch Ryan Port  is a major employer locally.

He also met with senior Stena Line Irish Sea manager Andy Kane who highlighted SWSTA’s calls for the UK and Scottish Governments to set out a timetable for a full programme of improvements to the A75 and A77 amid serious safety concerns.

Lord Davies of Gower (black jacket), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport visited Stena Line’s Port at Loch Ryan in Dumfries and Galloway. He was shown around by Stena Line regional ports operations manager Andy Kane. Thursday March 7 2024. Picture: South West Scotland Transport Alliance

Stena Line and SWSTA has welcomed progress on the A75 in recent years, in particular, the recent agreement between the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport Scotland (TS), that TS will use £8m of funding from DfT to carry out a feasibility study on bypassing the villages of Crocketford and Springholm.

Andy Kane, Regional Ports Operations Manager for Stena Line, said: “This was a good opportunity for Lord Davies to see for himself what a critical hub Loch Ryan is as a key gateway into the rest of the UK from Northern Ireland and to Europe from the UK.

“The simple fact is that, for such a key hub, Cairnryan is poorly served by roads. Along with our peers, we are doing all we can to make the case for improvement so that we can plan with confidence for the future and look at our own investment plans with certainty.

“Better roads would unlock so many opportunities for the economy regionally and nationally, including reducing carbon emissions.

“But, first and foremost, this is a safety case. They are simply not safe enough as they are for the drivers or the communities along them. I am sure Lord Davies recognised this in our discussion and the importance of progressing the current feasibility studies as a starting point for wider improvements.”

Maritime Minister Lord Davies said: “Improving connectivity is critical to ensure opportunities for growth are spread to all four corners of the United Kingdom, which is why this Government has given funding for Transport Scotland to study bypassing Crocketford and Springholm.

“It was great to speak with stakeholders at Cairnryan about the positive impact these enhancements could have on boosting travel time for ferry passengers and freight on the A75 –  making services between Belfast and Cairnryan more attractive.”

Lord Davies’ visit came just weeks afterUK Government Minister for Scotland John Lamont also visited Stena Line at Cairnryan, meeting the ferry operator, along with haulage firm Manfreight and Dumfries & Galloway Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Lamont said: “I thank Stena Line, Manfreight and Dumfries & Galloway Chamber of Commerce for a very productive and constructive meeting about the challenges they face with the A75 and plans to improve the route. Businesses, hauliers, commuters, leisure travellers and communities have responded positively to the UK Government’s announcement in December of £8 million funding to kick-start work by Transport Scotland to identify improvements on the A75 around Springholm and Crocketford.

“The UK Government is working closely and at pace with Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government, who are responsible for the A75, to finalise the details governing the allocation of funds for the study. This is standard practice before funds can be released. Following the study and the Scottish Government’s business case process to identify a preferred option for the realignment of the A75, the UK Government is committed to fund delivery of targeted improvements. 

“We look forward to continuing to work with Transport Scotland, Scottish Government and partners on linking up the UK much more effectively – boosting our economy, creating jobs and levelling up opportunities around the country.”The visits follow the SWSTA’s summit in January which focussed on the need to upgrade both roads. You can read more about that here.

UK Government Minister for Scotland, John Lamont, visited the Stena Line port at Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway to discuss upgrades to the A75 road. Pictured left to right are Brian Ward (Manfreight), Andy Kane (Stena Line), John Lamont MP, Jamie Shovelin (Dumfries & Galloway Chamber of Commerce). February 12 2024.