Infrastructure improvements to boost express transport
The UK and Scottish Governments have recently announced increases in levels of investment in both infrastructure improvements in Northern Ireland and additional funds made available under the Scottish Freight Facilities Grant scheme. In January, an announcement by the Scottish Government revealed a 62.5% cut in the Scottish Freight Facilities Grant scheme which you can read more about here. The Freight Transport Association has praised the latest announcements and the news comes as a relief for many road haulage outfits following the initial announcements of cuts in January.
Northern Ireland’s Minister for Finance, Sammy Wilson, announced a £600 million package of infrastructure improvements. Over half the funds will go towards upgrading two sections of the A5 between Londonderry and Strabane, as well as Ballygawley and Omagh. In addition, £57 million will be invested on improvements to the A2 Belfast to Carrickfergus route and £105 million on the infamous 14km stretch of single carriageway section of the A8 between the Port of Larne and Belfast. After many years of campaigns by lobbyists, this stretch of road will now become a dual carriageway.
Improvements to road infrastructure will ease traffic and congestion as well as providing safer driving conditions on stretches of road which have witnessed many serious accidents over the years including numerous fatalities. Reductions in traffic and congestion and improvements in driving conditions will create more reliable delivery timescales for road haulage organisations, particularly those providing dedicated express services.
FTA’s Head of Policy for Northern Ireland, Tom Wilson, said,
“The A8 is a strategically significant trade route, but one which has lacked capacity to cope with the sheer volume of lorries that rely on this route to reach Larne Port. It is an absolutely essential link in our supply chain between businesses on the island of Ireland and large freight hubs in northern England and Scotland. This funding will go a long way to improve Ireland’s connectivity and finally make the A8 fit for purpose. Typically, slower-moving agricultural vehicles do cause long tailbacks on this road and motorists do take risks when overtaking tractors, combine harvesters and the like, dualling will reduce instances of risky overtaking.
“Investment in infrastructure brings with it great returns on investment, and the Northern Ireland Assembly’s decision to focus most of its spend on two vital trade corridors will pay dividends. Better roads and infrastructure will not only encourage investment from overseas and overall connectivity, but mean lower fuel costs and more reliable journey times, giving hauliers, local businesses and motorists alike a welcome boost.”
In addition, the news from the Scottish Government’s decision to provide an additional £4.5 million in funding for the Freight Facilities Grant has been met with praise. The grant is open to applications for funding of rail and water facilities in Scotland meeting specific criteria.
Chris MacRae, FTA’s Head of Policy in Scotland, said,
“This additional announcement of funding is good news. This is especially so at a time of recession and it should be remembered that in England the equivalent grant has been completely ended. This grant is essential to helping achieve the Scottish Government’s challenging carbon reduction targets: switching freight movement to rail or water is an essential element of this and these grants help this, in addition to the separate revenue support grant regime.”