HC Deb 19 December 1990 vol 183 cc280-1
8. Mr. John D. Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the estimated growth of passenger and freight ferry traffic at Stranraer and Cairnryan in the next five years; and what proposals he has to improve road and rail transport systems from these ports.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Estimates of future ferry traffic through Stranraer and Cairnryan are commercial matters for the companies concerned. A number of major road schemes have been completed on the A75 Gretna-Stranraer route and further road improvements are planned. Investment in railways is a matter for British Rail.

Mr. Taylor

Larne harbour is now the second largest in the United Kingdom for roll-on/roll-off freight traffic and the third largest for passenger-accompanied vehicles. It is handling more than 1.5 million people and last year traffic grew again by 8 per cent. As all that traffic is going either to Stranraer or Cairnryan, will the Minister spend some time during the Christmas recess considering a new traffic plan for the west of Scotland which will benefit the people who live there and those who travel from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland—increasing numbers of people travelling from the Republic are using that route—and give them greater access to the channel tunnel? That plan could be drawn up in consultation with the transport directors of the European Commission.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Some £70 million has already been spent on the A75. We recognise the importance of this, not just for the convenience of the hon. Gentleman's constituents who will reach their destinations more quickly, but for tourism. Construction of improvements between Carrutherstown and Hetland is underway and five further schemes worth nearly £20 million are in preparation. We take seriously the points that the hon. Gentleman has made and will keep in touch with the Northern Ireland Office on this subject.

Mr. Foulkes

Is the Minister aware that this is an issue of great importance for all hon. Members representing constituencies in Ayrshire, as well as for hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland? Is he also aware that in the past few years there has been not an improvement but a deterioration in the transport system, with the removal of the overnight sleeper service from Stranraer to London and deterioration of the roads in Ayrshire? Can the Minister give an assurance that the Maybole and Girvan bypasses will be given priority in his roads programme and that if Strathclyde regional council agrees to remove its postponement of construction of its part of the A77, he will give the necessary finance to enable it to go ahead without any delay?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

On the last point, it is difficult for the Scottish Office to build a road if it ends in a field. The A77 is essentially a matter for Strathclyde regional council. The council has taken the decision to delay its part of the scheme; the Scottish Office stands ready to put in hand the work from Glasgow city boundary to Malletsheugh, south of Newton Mearns.

We make decisions in March for the year ahead in relation to specific projects such as the bypasses that the hon. Gentleman mentioned and I will take into account what the hon. Gentleman has said. It will be considered along with many other projects.

British Rail has shown its commitment to the south-west of Scotland by investing in new class 156 super sprinter trains for use in services between Glasgow, Ayr and Stranraer and between Stranraer and Newcastle, and ScotRail is introducing its most modern rolling stock—the class 158 express units—between Glasgow, Ayr and Stranraer. I hope that those will be of considerable assistance to the hon. Gentleman's constituents.