A major pinchpoint on the A77 between the port of Cairnryan and Ayr has been re-opened at the cost of almost £8.7m.

Work at the Carlock Wall, south of Ballantrae, had been expected to take six months, after efforts to tackle potential landslides there began early in 2020.

The nature of the work, which saw one of the lanes fully closed as the steep embankment directly below the road was excavated and then stabilised, meant only one lane was open and traffic signals put in place.

However, that original six months estimate stretched to almost two years, with the road only fully reopening just before Christmas.

Work to build a new access track and layby out for ‘access and maintenance purposes’ will continue up to March.

The Carnock Wall work was one of a number of points which have increased journey times along a vital route for freight, reducing average speeds to just 38mph.

Last year, the £29m Maybole Bypass was opened, with benefits to heavy goods vehicles, which make up ten percent of all journeys between South Ayrshire and the ports at Cairnryan, and the town of Maybole.

Long journey times have been a major issue for the A77. Campaigners at the A77 Action Group have spent years calling on greater investment, saying that the road has been underinvested compared to other parts of Scotland, despite the importance of the route for freight as well as tourism.

Transport Scotland has recognised the issues in the recently published Strategic Transport Projects Review.

In its appraisal of Ayrshire transport the review stated that the ports at Cairnryan were identified as major and that the ‘A77 does form the principal north-south route to access the ports’.

The review also acknowledges that ‘limited connectivity and long journey times were highlighted as a problem between Ayrshire and the M74 (via the non-trunk A70 and A71) and south of Ayr to access the ports at Cairnryan via the A77.

“On the A77 between Cairnryan and Ayr, average speeds are around 38mph, thus lengthening journey times. Long journey times were noted to impact the economic competitiveness of the region in the event of A77 route closure, and the diversionary route has been noted to be long and sub-standard for the volume and type of vehicles using it (e.g. HGVs).