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.
“British-Irish trade is a key economic driver for the region, and this route is at the heart of the movement of goods and services which keep the two countries trading efficiently,” concludes Leheny. “It is beholden on central government, as well as the devolved administrations, to ensure that vehicles, products and services can continue to make it to the ports on time so that businesses on both sides of the Irish Sea can continue to flourish – and that will require urgent and sustained investment in infrastructure improvements to benefit both Scottish and Irish business.”
As champions and challengers, FTA is the only organisation representing the entire logistics industry. FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.
Efficient logistics are vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than eight million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving changes in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.