More concerns have been raised about the suitability of the Scottish Governments’s plans for the A77 and A75 in the south west of Scotland following the publication of a review earlier this year.

Bosses at two big ferry companies and a harbour in Northern Ireland have expressed “dismay” at the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2).

A coalition of Stena Line, P&O Ferries and Belfast Harbour have called for major improvements to the A75 and A77 for decades, and over the last three years they have been engaged in private discussions with the Scottish Government about specific and targeted improvements.

They suggested 20-such improvements, but the Government only carried forward three of those suggestions in the STPR2.

In a joint statement, Paul Grant, Trade Director, Irish Sea at StenaLine, Riccardo Tonelli, Director of Operations, North Sea and Irish Sea at P&O Ferries and Michael Robinson, Port Director of Belfast Harbour, said: “We are deeply dismayed at the Scottish Government’s proposals. We have engaged in what we felt were very productive discussions for over three years, with the Scottish Government and with Transport Scotland. We felt we had a mutual understanding of what was required, and a mutual commitment to making the necessary improvements.

“We carry around 1.75m passengers, 500,000 cars and 400,000 freight vehicles every year on our 26 daily crossings. Each one of them has been let down.

“The proposed improvements, to cover the next 20 years, are a small fraction of what is required to make them safer, greener and better.”

“There is a casualty every three days on the A75 and A77. Nearly two tonnes more CO2 is emitted on each of these roads, every day, than are emitted on comparable, upgraded roads. And they are two of the five slowest A-roads in Scotland.

“Given the Scottish Government’s focus on environmental welfare, it is difficult to understand the failure to commit to significant improvements on these high-emission roads, which are the only alternative to air transport for those travelling between Northern Ireland and Scotland. This is a missed opportunity to cut carbon emissions.”

The group say that this could lead to business opting for ports in England, where the roads are better and safer.

“We have already seen evidence of customers being pushed to ports such as Heysham and Liverpool, where there they meet safer and better quality roads, and we cannot avoid the inevitability that STPR2 poses a material risk to future investment.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson responded: “The second STPR2 sets out proposals for future investment in the Scottish road network. We will also continue to progress our programme of trunk road improvements to improve resilience, safety and support sustainable inclusive growth. Clearly, we need to balance the extensive changes required to meet our net-zero ambitions with our duty to ensure Scotland has high quality infrastructure to meet the needs of all residents, businesses and visitors.

“Stranraer and the ports at Cairnryan act as an important gateway to Scotland for ferry passengers and freight and we have engaged with this group of stakeholders throughout the STPR2 process. The Minister for Transport is keen to meet both Stena and P&O to discuss their concerns further.”

“Improving the transport assets in this location would support regeneration in the South West of Scotland to benefit the economy and local communities. STPR2 recommends that safety, resilience and reliability improvements are made on the A75 and A77 strategic road corridors, in turn supporting placemaking opportunities. This would include, but is not limited to enhancing overtaking opportunities, widening or realigning carriageways and improving junctions.”