The upgrade of a key arterial route linking Scotland to the Port of Larne continues to be the focus of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council through their North Channel Partnership.

Chief Executive Anne Donaghy visited Dumfries and Galloway last month to give an overview of the partnership to elected members and co-sign its terms of reference.

The next formal meeting of the partnership will take place later this year, at which point the group’s Action Plan, which includes Ports and Infrastructure as key components, will be further discussed.

Those discussions will include the importance of adopting a partnership approach to strategic investment in infrastructure along the A75 and A77, which are amongst Scotland’s busiest trunk roads but have suffered from lack of investment over many years.

Ms Donaghy also met representatives of the A75 and A77 Action Groups, who highlighted the issues they face along both roads and the need for government funding to improve the safety of those using the route.

Elected members on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have this month agreed to support the case for investment, and to lobby appropriate government officials to further this.

Mayor Cllr Maureen Morrow is one of Council’s three elected representatives to the North Channel Partnership, along with Cllrs Gregg McKeen and Danny Donnelly.

Cllr Morrow said after the meeting: “There is a real opportunity for our Council to support Dumfries and Galloway in their call for the upgrade of this essential infrastructure.

“We are keen to develop a collaborative approach to realise the potential of the A8 as a major economic corridor and support the upgrade of Scottish A75 and A77.

“For that to happen we need to have infrastructure that is smooth and for traffic to flow easily between Larne to Scotland and through to England. The A75 and A77 are the barriers to that smooth transition right through Scotland and England, and on to Europe.”

Cllr Gregg McKeen: “For the economy of Northern Ireland and our area, in particular, the upgrade of the A75 and A77 is vitally important.

“There are still considerable parts of those roads which are single carriageway. That slows vehicles and lorry transport down.

“So it is key that as part of this economic corridor, from Northern Ireland right through to the north of England, that both roads are upgraded. The movement of goods is so much easier and it is important we are seen to be pushing that.”

Cllr Donnelly added: “This is about building bridges with Dumfries and Galloway and trying to get that economic linkage with them and the ports to drive that linkage forward.

“The improvement of these roads is a very important part of the jigsaw for the economic corridor.”