The Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents logistics operators on both sides of the Irish Sea, is calling on the government to prioritise the infrastructure deficit leading to and from Loch Ryan, which handles approximately 45% of Northern Ireland’s trade with the rest of the UK.
“Trading conditions are already under stress over business’ Brexit concerns, and the uncertainty on delivery times caused by an ageing road network is only compounding the problem,” says Seamus Leheny, FTA’s policy manager for Northern Ireland. “The A75 in Scotland is the quickest direct route connecting Great Britain to shipping serving Northern Ireland and is vitally important for ‘just in time deliveries which retailers and agri-food producers in Northern Ireland rely on.
“Trade between Britain and Northern Ireland is key for the continued success of the nation’s economy,” says Chris MacRae, FTA’s policy manager for Scotland. “For such a key route, the lack of consistent road surface is a headache for both freight operators and local residents, and deserves urgent attention. Bypasses need to be constructed as a priority for the villages that the road currently travels through, and we would urge Transport Scotland to investigate the possibility of duplicating the current A9 pilot scheme, which uses average speed cameras and increased speed limits of 50mph, to keep this key economic corridor to and from Northern Ireland open and functioning efficiently.”
There are 9,000 sailings a year on the Loch Ryan to Belfast route, carrying 410 thousand units of freight. However, growth on the route of 1.3% in the year to date is outstripped by far greater growth in movements on the route between Dublin and Holyhead. This will only continue if the inadequate quality of the A75 is not addressed soon.