We at the Freight Transport Association (FTA) are calling on the government to prioritise the infrastructure deficit leading to and from Loch Ryan in Scotland.
The A75 road, which goes from Stranraer to Gretna, handles approximately 45% of Northern Ireland’s trade with the rest of the UK.
Trading conditions are already under stress over business’s Brexit concerns, and the uncertainty on delivery times on the long single carriageway road caused by an ageing road network is only compounding the problem.
The A75 was discussed by MPs in Westminster Hall yesterday, which we welcome. MPs including Nigel Dodds, of North Belfast, was very supportive of our calls for an upgrade of the route.
The MP for Dumfries and Galloway, Alister Jack, led the debate and supports an A75 upgrade.
The road is the quickest direct route connecting Great Britain to shipping serving Northern Ireland and is vitally important for ‘just in time’ deliveries which retailers and agri-food producers in Northern Ireland rely on.
Trade between Britain and Northern Ireland is key for the continued success of the nation’s economy.
For such an important route, the lack of consistent road surface is a headache for both freight operators and local residents, and deserves urgent attention.
Bypasses need to be constructed as a priority for the villages that the road currently travels through, and we would urge Transport Scotland to investigate the possibility of duplicating the current A9 pilot scheme, which uses average speed cameras and increased speed limits of 50mph, to keep this key economic corridor to and from Northern Ireland open and functioning efficiently.
Lorries currently have to travel at 40mph on a 95-mile stretch of the A75.
Widening the road will mean that car drivers will not get stuck behind moving slow-moving lorries.
There are 9,000 sailings a year on the Loch Ryan to Belfast route, carrying 410,000 units of freight. However, growth on the route of 1.3% in the year to date is outstripped by far greater growth in movements on the route between Dublin and Holyhead, which has motorway or dual carriageway connections at both ends.
This will only continue if the inadequate quality of the A75 is not addressed soon.
British/Irish trade is a key economic driver for the region, and this route is at the heart of the movement of goods and services which keep the two countries trading efficiently.
It is beholden on central government, as well as the devolved administrations, to ensure that vehicles, products and services can continue to make it to the ports on time so that businesses on both sides of the Irish Sea can continue to flourish – and that will require urgent and sustained investment in infrastructure improvements to benefit both Scottish and Irish business.
Efficient logistics are vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than eight million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.
With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving changes in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.
The A75 road is a key strategic route in the UK and needs to be improved urgently.
• Seamus Leheny is policy manager for FTA Northern Ireland