South Scotland

Dumfries to Stranraer rail return stays on track

Dumfries station Image copyright Peter Moore
Image caption A line from Dumfries to Stranraer is among the options contained in the final report

The reopening of a rail link closed in the 1960s is one of a series of options being taken forward to try to improve transport in south west Scotland.

The Dumfries to Stranraer line plan is contained in a finalised study of ways to give the region better connectivity.

The options will now form part of a nationwide strategic projects review to decide which, if any, can go ahead.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson said the publication of the study was a "significant milestone" for the area.

Among the proposals which have made it to the final South West Scotland Transport Study are:

  • new rail links between Dumfries and Stranraer, Stranraer and Cairnryan, and Lockerbie and Dumfries
  • new stations at Cumnock, Thornhill, Eastriggs, Dunragit and Beattock
  • increased services operating from Lockerbie station
  • increasing the HGV speed limit to 50mph on the trunk road network
  • capacity enhancement on the A75, A76 and A77

However, a number of options have been ruled out.

Image copyright David Dixon
Image caption Making the A75 completely dual carriageway has been ruled out by the report

They mainly include making a number of routes dual carriageway - including the A75, A701, A709 and A77 between Ayr and Cairnryan.

The construction of a new road between Dumfries and the A74(M) motorway has also been ruled out.

The study concluded that - while these options could deliver benefits - their scale, cost and environmental impact meant they should not be considered further.

Mr Matheson said Transport Scotland had taken local opinion into account and produced a "range of potential interventions" which could lead to "a more integrated and sustainable network serving communities across the region".

Image copyright Billy McCrorie
Image caption Ferry firms have said it is time for action not words

"The options recognise the commitments in the forthcoming National Transport Strategy to protect our climate and help build inclusive economic growth while improving our health and wellbeing," he said.

The transport study has been given a "caution welcome" by ferry operators pressing for improvements to the A75 and A77.

A coalition of Stena Line, P&O Ferries and Belfast Harbour said it was "optimistic" that the Scottish government understood the need for "continuous improvements" to the routes.

A joint statement said: "We have had a lot of words for a lot of years from a lot of governments, and now we need to see some action.

"We need a 21st Century road network to service what are 21st Century ports, and we are very far behind."

Image copyright Roger Cornfoot
Image caption The Dumfries to Stranraer line has been closed for more than 50 years

Analysis

Giancarlo Rinaldi, BBC news website south of Scotland reporter

The 73-mile rail link between Dumfries and Stranraer closed in 1965 - one of many victims of the Beeching cuts.

Its return - long-advocated by some - is now one of a string of potential measures being considered to improve transport connections in the region.

However, it will still have to take its chance against dozens of competing projects across Scotland in order to proceed.

That means anyone who can remember travelling on the old line is likely to be collecting their pension before making the journey again.

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