A sense of urgency is needed for road upgrades

Plans to upgrade the A77 and A75 have been raised once more in the Scottish Parliament.

Monday, 25th January 2021, 1:45 pm
Updated Monday, 25th January 2021, 1:47 pm
The long-running saga to upgrade the A75 and A77 continues

The long-running saga was discussed by the Public Petitions Committee last week – more than 18 months after it was last considered by them.

The continued petitions under consideration were by Matt Halliday, on upgrading the A75, and by Donald McHarrie on behalf of the A77 action group, on an A77 upgrade.

The former calls on the Scottish Government to upgrade to dual carriageway the A75 Euro route along its entirety, as soon as possible.

The latter calls on the Scottish Government to dual the A77 from Ayr, at Whitletts roundabout, to south of the Cairnryan ferry ports, including the point at which the A77 connects with the A75.

Previously members of the committee carried out a fact-finding mission to see for themselves the need to upgrade the A75 to dual-carriageway status.

They found the route has “worsened significantly” amid fears it could lead to a potential loss at the ferry port.

When the committee last considered the petitions in June 2019 it was agreed to defer holding a round-table discussion with relevant stakeholders until after the Scotland’s Futures Forum event “Our Future Scotland: Dumfries and the South West” had taken place.

That event was originally postponed because of unavailability of speakers, and eventually cancelled completely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the Conveners Group’s meeting in November 2019, the chair raised the petitions directly with the First Minister.

Nicola Sturgeon advised she would respond to the committee in writing, but despite repeated requests has never done so.

Committee convener Johann Lamont said: “There is frustration about the matter. In the past, there has been a lot of very positive discussion about the importance of the route – not only from a safety perspective, but for the economy.

“For many reasons, which are not at the door of anyone in particular, the issue has been stalled. There is now a question about how we take the matter forward.

“I think we agree that there is an issue. I suspect given the UK is no longer in the EU, there must be pressure points on the routes, and that the pressures will only increase.”

The committee now wants to move forward with holding round-table discussions with Transport Scotland, government officials and stakeholders to bring a degree of urgency to the issue.

It agreed to write to the First Minister for a response, while also seeking feedback from the North Channel Partnership.

Ms Lamont added: “We recognise the petitions address important issues that will not be resolved overnight. As far as taking action is concerned, we expect to put our suggestions on that in our legacy paper.”

Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson was invited to address the committee having long campaigned for the Scottish Government to stick to previous promises.

He has the backing of road hauliers and ferry operators who also want to see the necessary improvements.

Mr Carson said: “I was delighted the matter was brought before the committee as it is important we continue to highlight the dire situation with regards our road network.

“Anything that keeps the pressure on the Scottish Government to provide the investment badly-needed to upgrade the A75 and A77 has to be encouraged.”

“Time after time we have given assurances this badly-need investment will be forthcoming only to see it pushed back further and further.

“The upgrade to both the A77 and A75 is not only crucial to the economy in the south west of Scotland, but to the whole of Scotland as it is one of the main routes between the UK and Ireland.“