Poor road access at Scottish ports impacting on growth of Northern Ireland economy
POOR road access at Scottish ports could limit the future prosperity of the Northern Ireland economy according to Stena Line.
The leading ferry company, which operates the Belfast to Cairnryan service, says businesses across Northern Ireland continue to be disadvantaged by poor road access to their key British markets.
To try and tackle the "critical infrastructure deficit" Stena Line has raised concerns with local political and business stakeholders over the issue, which impacts a range of key business sectors including manufacturing, food production and tourism.
Of particular concern is the the road network to and from Loch Ryan port, Cairnryan, which handles approximately 45 per cent of Northern Ireland trade with the rest of the UK.
Stena Line trade director , Paul Grant believes action must be taken to bring the road access up to standard.
“We have been working hard over a number of years to try to get key road improvements made on the A77 and more importantly the A75 heading south from Scotland. Despite significant investments by ferry operators between Northern Ireland and Scotland, including Stena Line's new £80 million port and terminal facility at Cairnryan, which included the introduction of two larger ferries, successive administrations have been unable to commit the necessary capital resources to carry out these vital road upgrades."
“Access to and from Scottish ports is severely lacking compared with other UK hubs. Journeys could be made easier and travel times shortened which would help to reduce Northern Ireland's remoteness and help support key economic contributor groups such as hauliers and tourists. Investments have been made to roads at Holyhead and Heysham and these are already providing tangible benefits to business and tourism levels in their regions," he said.
Mr Grant believes that local politicians must engage with other stakeholders to get the Scottish and Westminster governments to work collaboratively to push for a fit for purpose road network system on both sides of the Irish Sea.
"The dualling of the A75 will be a long-term infrastructure project which could take a number of years to plan and complete. As it stands however, the clock isn't even ticking so if we want Northern Ireland to remain a competitive, forward thinking economy which can attract major investments in the future, we need to start the process of change and work collaboratively now to get the commitments and resources in place before a shift in trade away from Northern Ireland becomes irreversible.”