Bosses at Stena Line have slammed the lack of investment in the roads to and from Cairnryan.
They have also claimed that events over last weekend, which saw the A77 close for almost 24 hours due to severe flooding, will reoccur in the future if the current lack of investment in road improvements continues.
At 4pm on Saturday afternoon (21st Oct), the A77 was closed due to severe flooding 2 miles south of Loch Ryan Port. As one of the main arterial routes to and from the ports of Loch Ryan and Cairnryan, Stena say the 24hr closure caused major disruption in the area for freight and tourism traffic using the ports as well as local people living in the area.
Paul Grant, Stena Line’s Trade Director (Irish Sea North) said: “Once more, our port operations have been disrupted as a result of the years of neglect of the main roads in the area so it’s inevitable that during spells of bad weather with the roads unable to cope, key port facilities such as Stena Line’s Loch Ryan Port are effectively are put into ‘lock down’ mode.
“It’s quite clear from this and other incidents that the current A77 and A75 don’t reflect the requirements fitting of a major UK–Ireland travel and freight hub so I’m afraid that major disruptions and loss of trade could be a feature of life in the region until those responsible commit the necessary resources to alleviate these recurring problems.
“As the third largest port gateway in the UK, it seems incredible that Loch Ryan is still unable to attract the support and investment other UK ports have been able to secure to help them meet the increasing demands placed upon them. Incidents like the weekend put a sharp focus on the limitations of the current road infrastructure in the region and we would urge local politicians to work with us to help the people and economy of South West Scotland get the road network they now desperately deserve. Stena Line has invested £250m in its Cairnryan – Belfast route and this commitment needs to be reciprocated.”
Galloway MP Alistair Jack commented: “Last weekend’s closure of the A77 underlines the need for more investment in our region’s roads, particularly the A75 and the A77. Both roads are of vital importance to the local economy of Dumfries and Galloway, the A75 being a euro route, and it really is time that the Scottish Government recognise the need for upgrades on these roads and put their money where their mouth is.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Our operating company in the area, Scotland Transerv, worked to reopen the A77 at this location as soon as possible despite the ongoing severe weather which hampered the recovery. We will contact Stena to discuss the issues they have raised.
“We 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 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 £50million 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.”
The Gazette understand that the location of the flooding which prompted the closure was caused by a culvert becoming heavily blocked with grass, mud and debris.
The recovery was exacerbated by ongoing severe weather and flooding of an adjacent field which led to further flooding of other nearby points of the A77.
A review of the recovery operation is to be undertaken to ensure lessons are learned and any improvements made.