Work on road improvements and rail upgrades will boost business and improve connectivity across the UK, Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced in his response to Lord Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review.
Northern Ireland will receive £4.8 million to investigate improvements to the rail network in Northern Ireland, and will benefit from reforms which will allow the UK Government support to protect vital domestic flight connectivity between more regions of the UK, rather than just into London as is currently the case.
The package also includes a commitment to funding targeted improvements to the A75 in Scotland, providing better links between the Cairnryan ferry terminals serving Northern Ireland and southwest Scotland.
Projects across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will strengthen connections across communities and the UK, helping to drive tourism and grow the economy.
Transport Secretary, Mark Harper said: “We are committed to delivering growth opportunities across the United Kingdom, including ways to look at improving rail links across Northern Ireland.
“Today we are announcing more investment into projects that will boost connectivity and enhance transport connections across Northern Ireland. These projects will identify schemes that can bring economic benefits to people across the UK.
“I’d like to thank the Northern Ireland Executive for working collaboratively with us on these projects and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them on improving UK transport connectivity”
Improved connectivity across the UK will promote economic growth by increasing access to a wider pool of skills and opportunities. They will be supported by significant long-term work through other Government programmes including Network North.
Projects dedicated to enhancing connectivity across Northern Ireland include:
- Providing £3.3m to Translink to deliver a study on the cost, feasibility and value for money of electrification of the railway in Northern Ireland from Belfast to border.
- Funding Translink to deliver a £700k feasibility study on reopening the Antrim-Lisburn railway line, with an additional stop at Belfast International Airport.
- Committing funding to deliver targeted improvements to the A75 between Gretna and Stranraer, improving links between Scotland and Northern Ireland via the Port of Cairnryan. To kickstart this work, the UK Government will provide Transport Scotland with up to £8m from the UK Connectivity Development Fund for a detailed study on options for realigning the A75 around Springholm and Crocketford.
- Providing £800k to Translink to deliver a feasibility study on reinstating the Portadown to Armagh railway line.
- Reforming domestic aviation route support policy by updating Public Service Obligation (PSO) policy to include routes that operate to and from different regions of the UK, rather than just into London as is currently the case. This means routes throughout the UK will be protected by the UK Government’s PSO policy to ensure minimum levels of air services that are socially and economically vital for the region.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Improving connectivity across Northern Ireland and the UK is a priority of the UK government, and I am pleased that these feasibility studies will support that aim in Northern Ireland, for the benefit of businesses and people living and working here.”
The response to the Union Connectivity Review marks an important step in increasing UK connectivity and delivering the strong, reliable transport connections people depend on every day. The review was conducted by Lord Hendy as he called for improved transport connectivity across the UK. The review was the first UK-wide multi-modal strategic transport assessment in a generation.
Lord Hendy has welcomed the Government’s response and said: “I welcome the Government’s response to my review and the announcements in it. My recommendations outlined the next steps that the government should take to identify investments that will improve connectivity and support economic growth, job creation, house building, social cohesion and sustainability. The government’s response shows that they are taking the necessary actions to move this work forward and demonstrates their commitment to improving UK connectivity.
“I am also pleased to see that partnerships between the UK government, and each of the Scottish government, Welsh government, and Northern Ireland Executive have underpinned this work and I look forward to seeing them continue in the future.”
Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive at Belfast Harbour added: “The connectivity challenges and safety concerns that the A75 presents to hauliers, ferry passengers and local communities alike are well recognised, and we therefore welcome today’s announcement of funding for a detailed Feasibility Study for this route. A safer, greener and better A75 would provide significant benefits both to the economies of Scotland and Northern Ireland and to local communities, improving connectivity, easing congestion and allowing more reliable travel in the region for the benefit of all”.