Could Glasgow be the second Scottish city to enjoy the benefits of a light rail type transport system? If ambitious plans revealed in a new report come to fruition it could although it wouldn’t come cheap with the complete package of transport improvement proposed said to come to £10 billion. Described as a Metro network it would link Glasgow City Centre with the Airport – similar plans have recently been rejected as not feasible – going via Renfrew, Braehead and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The Connecting Glasgow report was in fact commissioned by Glasgow City Council although is not part of policy of the council so it could well be that nothing proposed ever comes about. The Glasgow Connectivity Commission wants to see transport improved in the city to reconnect areas described as left behind and also to help boost the economy. The plan would take around 20 years to put into place and cost £10 billion – that’s if everything suggested is taken forward.
The recommendations come in two phases with phase one concentrating more on the current transport infrastructure and making improvements to that including buses, cycling and the road network. It is Phase Two that the more expansive proposals come with the report authors saying that Transport Scotland should take the lead on developing a Glasgow Metro (along with Glasgow Central HS2 terminus and a tunnel linking Queen Street and Central railway stations).
So, just what is the Glasgow Metro being proposed? It is described as “a network of high capacity rapid transit lines serving as much of the city as possible so that the fixed transport system plays the fullest possible role in ensuring inclusive growth across the city’s communities, sustaining the international competitiveness of the key employment concentrations in and around the city centre”. There is no guarantee that this Metro would be tram or light rail with the commission not committing themselves, indeed they say different parts of the Metro could be different modes of transport. They do propose that the network could be created from parts of the existing heavy rail network, reopened sections of dormant infrastructure, wholly new sections of route and street running sections.
A number of different routes are proposed with the recommendation that the first should be between Paisley Gilmour Street and Glasgow Airport. This is a plan that has been on the table for some time and earlier this year it was reported that the previous light rail plan was to be abandoned, possibly in favour of autonomous pods. However, the reports authors suggest that as they feel it should be running by 2025 this isn’t an option. They instead propose either an automatic metro a la Copenhagen or a hybrid segregated/street running LRT solution as in Porto.
Following on from this first section it is proposed it is later extended to Renfrew, Braehead Shopping Centre and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital before a full Metro network is developed in the greater Glasgow area over the following 20 years.
All the plans are very ambitious and Glasgow City Council have said they will make detailed consideration of them. Whether that leads to their official adoption remains to be seen. What is also unclear at the moment is what form any such network may be.