The family of a driver who was killed in a horror crash has made an emotional appeal to ministers for urgent improvements on two key Scots 'Euroroutes' as it can be revealed it is the scene of two casualties in crashes every week.

Mother-of-two Michaela Sheil  and her daughters have spoken out after her 51-year-old partner of 35 years Tony died in a crash on the A75 Euroroute between the international Cairnryan ferry port near Stranraer, Wigtownshire, and Gretna, Dumfriesshire.

Campaigners are demanding action to improve both the A75 and the A77 after years of what they describe as "neglect and lack of investment".

The A75 and A77 trunk roads are the key routes serving Cairnryan and account for all passenger journeys and freight movements between mainland UK and Northern Ireland through the Cairnryan to Larne and Cairnryan to Belfast crossings.

The major trunk roads, which are the responsibility of the Scottish Government, are critical for connecting passengers and freight between England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and onwards to the the Republic of Ireland in the EU.

The A77 runs from Stranraer to Ayr and on to Glasgow while the A75 goes from Stranraer to Gretna.

But the roads, particularly the sections that run from Ayr to Stranraer and from Stranraer to Gretna, are mainly single carriageway so heavy goods vehicles are restricted to a 40mph speed limit and are often windy.

They key roads are seen as "critical" not just for connectivity in south west Scotland - but to the wider nation, the UK and Ireland but the South West Scotland Transport Alliance (SWSTA) say they are "not fit for purpose".

But there are concerns over a lack of investment in what are key routes dating with calls for change dating back to 1936 when a bypass for Maybole on the A77 was first mooted with planned route but never built. Until, January, 2022, when at a cost of £29m the bypass which promises to divert heavy traffic away from the South Ayrshire town finally opened.

The Herald: The Sheil family.

The Herald: The A77 at the port of Cairnryan and (inset) Tony Sheil whose family are fighting for action to endThe A77 at Cairnryan and (inset) Tony Sheil

Calls to dual carriageway the A77 to Stranraer were raised in Westminster are known to have surfaced in the 1980s.

Campaigners say that congestion is also caused when the routes go through towns and villages and on the A77 and travel can also be hampered by frequent landslips.

The SWSTA spearheaded by port operators Stena Line, P&O Ferries and Belfast Harbour is lobbying governments at Holyrood and Westminster over the "critical need" to improve the roads arguing that upgrades would make the roads safer, improve the environment and enhance the economy.

Transport Scotland records, based on reports made to Police Scotland, show that there were 564 casualties in crashes on the two roads in the five years since 2016 - which equates to an average of ten a month.

Ms Sheil, 53, in an emotional appeal, told how she lost her bricklayer partner in November who was driving a Ford transit van which was in collision with a Volvo lorry near Shennanton Bridge, Kirkcowan in Wigtownshire. The incident is subject of an investigation and her comments are not made to prejudge any cause.

He was just three minutes from their home in Newton Stewart after finishing working in Stranraer when the crash happened. Mr Sheil was pronounced dead at the scene, while the 35-year-old driver of the Volvo was uninjured.

Ms Sheil, who got engaged to her partner on her 18th birthday but never got round to a wedding date, said she supported calls for the roads to be upgraded to dual carriageway, but said action was urgently needed to make the roads safer now.

She is pushing for average speed cameras, for road white lines to be repainted and for more cat's eyes retroreflective safety devices to be installed.

She said: "I don’t want any other family to go through what me and my daughters are still going through because of neglect towards the road. The road needs money spent on it. It’s been neglected for far too long.

The Herald: The A75 near Stranraer.

"I would like average speed camera or even just speed camera. The amount of people speeding on the A75 road is terrible for HGV and cars."

She said that she had never seen her partner's body and had to pay her last respects while looking at his coffin.

"We weren't allowed to say goodbye, because he was so badly burnt. I was staring at a box.

"This is personal now. I feel very strongly about it.

"I can't talk on the phone about what happened sometimes because I get so upset. I struggle. I miss him every day.

"We last spoke just two hours before the crash. He rang and said he was going to the shop and do I want anything. I thought, should I ring him back? If I rung him, it might not have happened, I don't know."

Daughters Natasha, 16, and Samantha Jane, 20, added: "Our dad, our best friend died on the A75 that night after finishing work. He never got to say goodbye to us and we never got to say goodbye to him. That will always hurt.

"Our lives will never be same again. We have been ripped apart.

"It has always been the four of us now it just three. We want the road changing we don’t want any other family to go through the pain we are going through. We will fight for this road to get the changes it desperately need, even if we just stop one family from getting the same news we received that night.

"We are doing this because we want something positive to come out of dad's death. We want him remembered."

A study commissioned by the local authorities in South Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Mid and East Antrim in Northern Ireland found that dualling of the A75 and A77 would bring £5bn of "positive benefits" to the economy.

They have been calling for action from the UK and Scottish governments to improve the "vital conduits for communities and commerce".

The SWSTA have produced this video to get their message across on the A75 and A77.

They say the UK government should offer the Scottish government funding to upgrade the 95-mile long A75 stretch from Stranraer to Gretna, and encourages the Scottish government to improve the A77, which is seen by many as a Euroroute although not officially designated as such.

An SWSTA spokesman said: "The critical need to upgrade the A75 and the A77 is primarily a safety issue. Statistics show that lives are at risk on these roads, whether driving a car, truck or riding a motorbike. The stories our alliance hears from drivers on an almost daily basis backs that up. They do not feel safe on these roads.

“Cairnryan is a gateway to Scotland. The A75 is the main artery between Northern Ireland, Scotland and Northern England. But it is substantially poorer than the communities along it, the motorists who use it and our businesses need it to be.

“We all need the confidence that this is going to improve. There are signs that things are heading in the right direction - starting with the feasibility study into bypassing Springholm and Crocketford. But, what we all need is a detailed plan showing what improvements will be made along both roads and - critically - when.

“We are urging the UK and Scottish governments to work together to achieve this.

“Across the UK, roads to other ports have been invested in over the years. But those to Cairnryan have not. A timetable for upgrading needs to be set out. Given the economic importance of these routes, it is in the national interest - supporting a critical trade link as well as communities - that they are not left behind in terms of being made safer and better.”

The UK's transport secretary has confirmed an £8m funding package will be used to improve the A75 in the south of Scotland.

Among the key areas to be examined are bypasses for the villages of Crocketford and Springholm.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said it would aid the "main artery" linking Northern Ireland to northern England.

The Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland said it would continue to work "collaboratively" with the UK Government in securing the money "through the necessary legal and financial mechanisms".

It admitted it was having to make "tough decisions on our infrastructure projects pipeline to ensure we spend within our means".

Last month the SWSTA, which was founded last year held its first summit on the need to improve both roads They said that at the event, businesses, councillors and community campaigners highlighted the safety case for improvements, calling for the Scottish and UK Governments to set out a routemap of when and where improvements on the roads will take place.

Stena Line - along with representatives of Dumfries & Galloway Chamber of Commerce and haulage firm Manfreight - this week met with UK Government Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland John Lamont to discuss the A75 and the need for upgrades, starting with the bypassing of Springholm and Crocketford.

The Herald: The A77 at Girvan.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The strategic importance of both the A75 and A77 to Scotland’s economy is recognised by this government, and we value the critical link they provide to the wider markets in the rest of the UK and Europe by connecting the ports at Cairnryan to the wider trunk road network.

“Recommendation 40 in the second Strategic Transport Projects Review places equal importance on both the A75 and the A77 to Scotland and its economy. As with the A75, it identifies a series of targeted infrastructure improvements on the A77, for the next 20 years. The UK Government’s own Union Connectivity Review, also recognised the A77 as a route that requires improvement. However, unlike the A75, this was not one of the routes which could apply to their Union Connectivity Fund.

“Since 2007 we have completed five major improvements on the A77, including most recently the £29 million Maybole Bypass which opened in January 2022. This is in addition to over £124 million which has been invested on the A77 to ensure its safe and efficient operation.”

Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said: Any tragedy on our roads is one tragedy too many, and I express my condolences to the family concerned. There has been £85 million spent on maintenance improvements on the A75, but more can always be done.

"I will take away the average-speed camera issue for my officials to examine in relation to on-going maintenance and improved safety on that road."

She added: The Government is taking significant action to progress transport projects in the south of Scotland. We have invested in the operation and maintenance of the rail and road networks. One example is our on-going work with communities in Ballantrae and Kirkoswald on the A77 to address concerns with speeding traffic, noise and a lack of pedestrian crossings. In addition, we are improving active travel and electric vehicle infrastructure in the current financial year.

"Additionally, my officials are working with their counterparts in the United Kingdom Department for Transport to finalise the details of the £8 million in funding for the A75 that was finally confirmed by UK Ministers on 7 December 2023. All efforts are being made to secure that funding and allow work to commence next financial year.