Northern Ireland

Rail electrification among projects awarded funding to boost connectivity

The Government said the schemes would ‘enhance transport connections across the UK’ (Alamy/PA)
The Government said the schemes would ‘enhance transport connections across the UK’ (Alamy/PA)

Rail electrification in Northern Ireland and improvements to a vital A-road in Scotland are among the projects awarded UK Government funding to boost transport connectivity.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the schemes will “enhance transport connections across the UK”.

The funding is in response to Network Rail chairman Lord Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review published in November 2021.

Northern Ireland public transport provider Translink has been awarded £3.3 million for a study on the cost, feasibility and value for money of electrifying the railway between Belfast and the border with the Republic of Ireland.

The Scottish government will receive £8 million to begin developing options for improving the A75, which connects Gretna and Stranraer and carries Cairnryan ferry traffic.

Demands to convert the entire road into a dual carriageway stretch back at least two decades.

Meanwhile, more domestic flight routes will become eligible for subsidies to keep them open when they are not commercially viable.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the Government was ‘committed to delivering growth opportunities across the United Kingdom’ (Lucy North/PA)

The Public Service Obligation policy will be extended from only considering routes serving London to those across the UK deemed socially and economically important.

The UK Government said the measures complement those announced in its recent Network North plan to spend money saved by axing plans to build HS2 north of Birmingham.

These included £1.75 billion to boost rail connectivity in the Midlands and £1 billion to fund rail electrification in North Wales.

Mr Harper said: “We are committed to delivering growth opportunities across the United Kingdom.

“Today we are announcing support for projects that will boost connectivity and enhance transport connections across the UK.

“These projects will identify schemes that can bring economic benefits to people across the UK.

“I’d like to thank the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive for working collaboratively with us on these projects and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them on improving UK transport connectivity.”

Lord Hendy welcomed the response to his review.

He said: “My recommendations outlined the next steps that the Government should take to identify investments that will improve connectivity and support economic growth, job creation, house building, social cohesion and sustainability.

“The Government’s response shows that they are taking the necessary actions to move this work forward and demonstrates their commitment to improving UK connectivity.”

Lord Hendy’s review was commissioned by then-prime minister Boris Johnson to include the feasibility of building a bridge or tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The study found a bridge would cost £335 billion, while a tunnel would require a budget of around £209 billion.

Either project “would be impossible to justify” as “the benefits could not possibly outweigh the costs”, the report concluded.