THE leader of East Ayrshire Council has hit out at the Scottish Government's refusal to make an upgrade of the busiest road interchange in the county a higher priority.

Councillor Douglas Reid said Transport Scotland's lack of enthusiasm for improvement works at the Bellfield interchange was "scandalous".

The roundabout, on the eastern edge of Kilmarnock, is used by thousands of motorists every day on three busy roads linking North, East and South Ayrshire - the A77 Ayr-Glasgow trunk road, the A76 from Kilmarnock to Dumfries, and the A71 from Irvine to Darvel and beyond - as well as local traffic on the A735 travelling to and from Kilmarnock town centre and the Queens Retail Park.

The local authority's boss was speaking at a meeting of East Ayrshire Council's cabinet this week to discuss plans to move forward with an upgrade of the roundabout.

The council has been unsuccessful with two attempts to secure cash for an upgrade from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF).

A report prepared for the cabinet's meeting said that the interchange remains "a Transport Scotland asset with no council ownership".

Ayr Advertiser: East Ayrshire Council Leader, Douglas ReidEast Ayrshire Council Leader, Douglas Reid (Image: East Ayrshire Council)

But despite the interchange not being the council's property, the report adds that Transport Scotland - the Scottish Government's transport department - have indicated for a number of years that they expect the council to fund upgrades to the interchange.

It also says the government has not made improvements to the interchange a priority in its list of infrastructure commitments lasting until 2042.

The original estimate of the cost of upgrading Bellfield, at the time of the council's first LUF application, was £10.5 million.

However, it's believed that cost has risen to around £14-15m.

Upgrading plans for the interchange include:

  • Introducing signalling on five of the entry roads.
  • A segregated left turn from the A735 Queen’s Drive to the northbound A77
  • Widening of the circulating carriageway to three lanes
  • Adding a third lane at the top of the northbound A77 entry arm
  • Extension of the A77 northbound slip road and the upgrade of this offslip to a parallel diverge
  • The construction of an active travel footbridge

Cllr Reid said a resolution must be found soon, and revealed he wants to bring Transport Scotland bosses, as well as transport minister Fiona Hyslop, to East Ayrshire to look at the interchange for themselves.

Addressing the report, Cllr Reid said: "I really welcome this paper. We know, as a council, just what a major issue this is for our community.

“We know what the economic restrictions are with this. Every time you put on the radio there’s another accident near the Bellfield interchange, and we know what a blockage does in terms of restricting movement.

“I think it’s absolutely scandalous that Transport Scotland doesn’t think this is a priority before 2042, and I absolutely think we should be lobbying really hard."

Ayr Advertiser:  Minister for Transport, Fiona Hyslop. Minister for Transport, Fiona Hyslop. (Image: PA)

He added: “This affects right across Ayrshire and the south west and we need to be making that point pretty clear.

“We’ve got to shout loud and make very good arguments, as well as noisy arguments, to be put forward.

“I would immediately be looking for a meeting with the head of Transport Scotland and the Transport Minister and bring them down here to look, first-hand, at some of the issues it’s causing.

“I think we need to prepare that case and get a strategy going on how we address this issue.”

Transport Scotland has been contacted for comment.