A75 upgrade: Scottish minister will be 'extremely disappointed' if UK Government does not approve six-month-old funding bid
Transport minister Fiona Hyslop has called on the UK Government to approve its funding bid to upgrade the key A75 route for Irish ferry traffic after Rishi Sunak included the scheme in his plan to replace HS2 to Manchester.
She said the Scottish Government had been waiting six months to hear whether its application had been successful.
Its Transport Scotland agency said: “Given the importance to the UK Government, ministers hope they can now come forward with that funding urgently and the work can start.”
Ms Hyslop said: “I will be extremely disappointed if the request is not accepted in full given we have waited since April for a formal response to our bid for funding for the A75.”
The single carriageway route is heavily used by lorries between the M6 and ports at Cairnryan, near Stranraer, which provide ferry links to Northern Ireland.
The upgrade was a recommendation of the UK Government-commissioned Union Connectivity Review in 2020, which provoked fury from Scottish ministers because transport is largely devolved to the Scottish Government. Michael Matheson, the-then transport secretary, condemned it as a “blatant power grab”.
However, UK transport secretary Mark Harper said in April there had since been “constructive engagement” with the Scottish Government.
Scottish ministers have also been considering the merits of improving the A75 as part of their latest major transport projects review, so the issue being highlighted by the Prime Minister’s speech to the Conservative Party conference on Wednesday may help focus minds on both sides of the Border over making progress.
Ms Hyslop said: “The Scottish Government recognises the strategic importance of the A75 to Scotland’s economy, and the critical link it provides between Northern Ireland and the wider markets in the rest of the UK and Europe by connecting the ports at Cairnryan to the wider trunk road network.
"While transport is a devolved matter, the Scottish Government was invited to bid for UK Government funding for improvements to the A75 and we did so in April this year. We recognise the reality of the financial constraints we face and this would allow for a meaningful step forward in improvements to the route.
"While we continue to engage positively and collaboratively with the UK Government regarding the A75, I will be extremely disappointed if the request is not accepted in full given we have waited since April for a formal response to our bid for funding for the A75.
“If the UK Government wants to increase its funding contribution to infrastructure projects in Scotland, ministers would prefer if it to be done so through the already established mechanisms of devolution.”
Transport Scotland said its capital spending had been constrained because of the UK Government’s 7 per cent cut in real terms in its capital budget, “significantly affecting our ability to maintain investment on not just the A75, but transport infrastructure across Scotland”.
A spokesperson for the UK Department for Transport said: “We are fully committed to funding targeted improvements to the A75, helping to strengthen connections across the UK.
“Thanks to the billions being redirected from HS2 we have announced funding for A75 improvements, and we continue to work with the Scottish Government on the proposals.”
Meantime, Ms Hyslop said she would press UK ministers for clarity about the impact of the “significant scaling back of the HS2 plans” by the line being truncated in Birmingham rather than continuing to Manchester.
She said: “These latest cuts to HS2 announced by Rishi Sunak are extremely disappointing. The Scottish Government has always strongly supported a high-speed rail programme that benefits Scotland, yet it is quite clear this latest UK Government decision will negatively impact on Scottish connectivity in comparison to the potential of the original HS2 programme.”
The Scotsman understands the decision could mean there will be no journey time savings for passengers travelling between Scotland and London when HS2 trains switch to the west coast main line north of Birmingham.
Although increasing rail capacity is a key part of HS2, journey time reductions are arguably as important for Scottish passengers to encourage more to switch from air.
The UK Government had originally said Edinburgh/Glasgow-London trips would be reduced to three hours 56 minutes when the Birmingham leg was completed, which is now due in 2030. It had said they would be cut further to three hours 38 minutes if the original Y-shaped HS2 line to Manchester and Leeds was built. The Leeds arm was cancelled in 2021.
Journeys take around four-and-a-half hours, although LNER operates an early morning limited-stop Edinburgh-King’s Cross 4 hour service and previous Glasgow-London operator Virgin West Coast ran some limited-stop services which took four hours ten minutes between Glasgow Central and Euston.
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