Roads coalition calls for detail on A75 and A77 improvements
MSPs from the three main parties joined councillors, businesses and community campaigners in calling for a routemap detailing when and where improvements to two key roles will take place.
Local SNP, Conservative and Labour MSPs took part in the first ever summit organised by the South West Scotland Transport Alliance (SWSTA), whose public affairs and media relations work is supported by Message Matters (MM).
The event, held in Stranraer, focussed on the case for change for vital upgrades to the A75 and A77.
MM has been working with the SWSTA’s founding members – port operators Stena Line, P&O and Belfast Harbour – for a number of years to lobby both the Scottish and UK Governments, with positive discussions at Holyrood and Westminster.
The summit – chaired by Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron – was the first time in a number of years that such a cross-section of organisations had been brought together to highlight the case for change and the importance of setting out a timetable for action.
It shone a spotlight on the issues, attracting strong media coverage, including that from BBC Scotland online, on ITV Border’s Lookaround, Representing Border, local radio and regional newspapers – telling the stories of drivers who regularly use the roads and the dangers they encounter.
Andy Kane, Regional Ports Operations Manager for Stena Line, said: “We are in a better place now, with progress towards improvement works, particularly on the A75, but there is still a lot to do.
“The full potential of south west Scotland cannot be unlocked until these roads are upgraded.
“It’s time for ministers at Holyrood and Westminster to sit down with businesses, local politicians and others to offer the detail on when and where work will begin to make these roads safer, greener and better.”
The UK Government recently pledged £8m for Transport Scotland through its Union Connectivity Review to conduct a feasibility study on bypassing the villages of Crocketford and Springholm along the A75.
The Scottish Government, meanwhile, has highlighted a series of potential improvement projects along both roads as part of its second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2)
And, while they point towards progress, delegates at the summit – which counted Dumfries & Galloway and South Ayrshire Councils and the chambers of commerce in both regions among its supporters – highlighted growing demands from communities for pledges to be met by action.
Laura Gilmour, Irish Sea Ports Director for P&O, said: “We welcome the progress being made. But what we need now is assurances about physical work beginning, including the detailed programme for the feasibility study on Springholm and Crocketford.
“That would be progress. But it should be followed immediately by a delivery timetable.
“The A75 and A77 century are two of the five slowest A-roads in Scotland – they can be made safer, greener and more fit for 21st century needs.”
There is a casualty every three days on the A75 and A77 – and nearly two tonnes more carbon dioxide is emitted on these roads every day than on other comparable routes as drivers face stop-start journeys which include slowing to pass through villages and towns.
The broad economic impact of improving the roads was also highlighted by Michael Robinson, Port Director of Belfast Harbour, to which Stena Line sailings to and from Cairnryan run.
He said: “The importance of the A75 and A77 should not be under-estimated. These are critical connections for haulage and tourism. Making them safer and better would undoubtedly help protect lives, jobs and encourage investment.
“The case for change is clear. We – as part of the SWSTA – are keen to continue working with ministers and politicians from all parties and parliaments to ensure that improvements can be delivered.”
Issues raised at the summit will be examined by the SWSTA to compile a series of asks to the UK and Scottish Governments to explore how the improvements identified can be delivered. Details of those will be shared in the weeks ahead.
MSPs who attended the event were: Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries), Sharon Dowey (South of Scotland), Emma Harper (South of Scotland), Colin Smyth (South of Scotland) and Brian Whittle (South of Scotland).
SWSTA is supported by Dumfries & Galloway and South Aysrhire Councils, as well as Dumfries and Galloway and Ayrshire Chambers of Commerce.