Port concern at road closures

The Loch Ryan Port in Cairnryan.
The Loch Ryan Port in Cairnryan.

Ferry operator Stena Line say ongoing roadworks and disruption on the A77 and A75 trunk roads is now ‘debilitating’ to its port operations.

Less than 16 days after the last closure, the A77 was closed overnight on November 6 to all traffic for up to 12 hours, resulting in a 75-minute detour for traffic using Stena Line’s Loch Ryan Port. The closure comes on the back of a 24-hour closure of the A77 following severe flooding on 21st October when the company said the port was in virtual ‘lockdown’ mode for over 24 hours.

Although this closure was pre-scheduled to facilitate remedial landslip road works, it now brings to five the number of times one of the main arterial routes to the key ferry ports at Loch Ryan, the UK’s third largest port gateway, has been closed to traffic.

Transport Scotland say they have invested £50 million in the A77 in the last 10 years, have a meeting planned with the A77 Action Group next week to discuss their issues of concern and have contacted Stena to make arrangements for a meeting to hear their views.

Paul Grant, Stena Line’s Trade Director (Irish Sea North) said: “Whilst we appreciate that remedial work needed to be carried out on this section of road due to a previous landslip issue, the cumulative effect of ongoing disruptions is becoming more and more debilitating on our day to day port operations at Loch Ryan. Five major disruptions already in 2017 is a major concern to us and the various businesses and tourism initiatives we help to support.

“We have voiced our concerns to the Scottish Government on a number of occasions and would again urge the Transport Minister and his colleagues to prioritise an Action Plan for the road infrastructure improvements to and from Loch Ryan, including the A75. The simple fact of the matter is that this economic driver for the South of Scotland has not attracted the level of road infrastructure investment it should have done over the years and the time has now come to find a long-term solution rather than piece-meal tweaks which fail to address the root problem, accessibility. Poor road access and poor rail connections continue to impede the Scottish economy.

“Loch Ryan is in competition with other major ports around the UK who have already made the transition via sustained infrastructure investment, Loch Ryan should not be left behind. Stena Line has invested heavily in a new port and ships, it’s time that accessibility is given the same priority.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We are doing all we can to minimise closures as a result of the planned landslip repairs, and we would appeal to road users patience as we carry these out. The work is essential and will help improve the resilience of the A77 when completed.

“Transport minister Humza Yousaf met with local MSPs, councillors and Maybole community members earlier this week to discuss local transport issues and future investment for the A77, and is also meeting the A77 action group next week to discuss their issues of concern. In addition, Transport Scotland officials have contacted Stena to make arrangements for a meeting to hear their views.

“We fully recognise the key routes to our ports are essential to connect businesses to the marketplace and support the local, regional and national economies - that is why we are currently taking forward plans for a new bypass at Maybole worth £30 million, having delivered substantial improvements to the A77 at Symington and Bogend Toll, Glen App, Haggstone and Park End, and invested nearly £50 million in the maintenance of the A77 since 2007.

“This is in addition to £66 million invested in maintenance of the A75, and other major improvements between Hardgrove and Kinmount, Cairntop and Barlae, and a new bypass at Dunragit.”