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by Louise Wilson
25 November 2021
Cross-border rail, A1 and A75 upgrades backed by long-awaited UK transport review

Nathan P Taylor -

Cross-border rail, A1 and A75 upgrades backed by long-awaited UK transport review

Improvements to rail connections between Scotland and the north of England, as well as the A1 and A75, would help boost economic growth and social cohesion across the UK, the long-awaited Union Connectivity Review has concluded.

But the Scottish Government said UK ministers had “no role” in deciding on investment in the trunk road network in Scotland because transport is devolved.

Instead, it has called for mechanisms to ensure extra cash for infrastructure is handed to Holyrood for it to decide how it would be spent.

Sir Peter Hendry, the chair of the review, recommended that the UK government should establish a strategic transport network for the whole of the UK.

His review calls for investment to boost connections between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, predominantly through improvements to two major roads in south-west Scotland.

It said the UK Government should provide funding to the Scottish Government to upgrade the A75, while the Scottish Government should also be encouraged to improve the A77, both of which link the port at Cairnryan to the rest of the UK.

But the controversial plan to create a direct link between Scotland and Northern Ireland by tunnel or bridge, as promoted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is not included in the review's recommendations.

Sir Peter said: “My recommendations provide comprehensive, achievable and clear plans forward to better connect the whole of the United Kingdom, leading to more growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion.”

The review was commissioned in October 2020 with a remit to investigate what transport improvements could promote economic growth across the UK.

Other recommendations include upgrading the west coast main line to cut rail journey times between Scotland and London.

It also says the UK and Scottish governments must work together to assess the east coast transport corridor – consisting of both the rail line and the A1 – with a view to improving links between north-east England and south-east Scotland.

The Scottish Government hit out at the plans given the devolution settlement. A spokesperson said: “Transport is devolved to Holyrood, and the UK Government should respect that.

“We will always seek to engage constructively with the UK Government – for example, on cross-border rail and our shared desire for HS2 to serve Scotland, but UK ministers have no role in deciding investment in Scotland’s trunk roads. 

“Scottish ministers have not been sighted on the recommendations of the Union Connectivity report, however if UK ministers really want to play a helpful role, then they could simply deliver the funding we need for such infrastructure investment in line with established budgetary mechanisms for Scotland to determine our spending priorities.”

Boris Johnson has said he intends to accept the proposal to create a strategic transport network covering the entire of the UK.

Dubbed UKNET by the Hendry report, this would look at where to target funding where ever improvements are most needed regardless of where in the country it is.

The Prime Minister said: “With some of the busiest travel corridors for both passengers and freight, strengthening transport connections between Scotland and the rest of the UK is critical to maximise the potential for growth and jobs.

“Sir Peter Hendy’s review identifies key areas where we can boost rail, road and air links to better support Scottish businesses and communities, and we will work closely with the Scottish Government to take these proposals forward in ways that will bring our towns and cities even closer together.”

The rest of the report's recommendations will be considered by the UK government in due course.

It also recognised the need to meet the challenges of climate change.

The review says any improvements should be planned using a multimodal corridor model – which encourages travel using a range of different transport options – and also promotes the development of sustainable aviation fuel plants.

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