Stuart McMillan MSP has described proposals for a rail link to Glasgow Airport as a “profligate waste of money that will do no good for the wider Clyde region” after a survey was circulated to businesses in the west of Scotland intended to seek the business community’s views on the economic benefits of the project.
The scheme, costing £144.3m, would see tram-train carriages run from Glasgow Central to the airport via Paisley. Construction on this could start in 2021 with the service being operational by 2025.
It was recommenced as a plan by eight councils in 2014 after the announcement of the City Deal, a cash pot to boost infrastructure over the next 20 years. Under the City Deal, Scottish and UK Government’s contribute £500m each in additional funding to the area for infrastructure investment.
The eight councils – Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire also contribute £130m.
The new options for the rail link are being led by Glasgow and Renfrewshire Councils. This would see tramcars run on the heavy rail network between Glasgow and Paisley Gilmour Street, before switching onto a newly-constructed light rail line between Paisley and the airport entrance.
Commenting on the rail link proposals, Greenock and Inverclyde MSP, Stuart McMillan said:
“The airport rail link is heralded as the flagship project for the Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal, but frankly it does nothing for the wider transport infrastructure of the entire Clyde Valley Region as it is limited solely to the passengers that are generated by the airport.
“I also have concerns about what effects a new rail line will have on Inverclyde commuters. If the airport rail link will accommodate tram-trains every 15 minutes as proposed, then running them during peak times would require significant timetable alterations and extended journey times for other passengers on the Gourock line.
“I believe that building a tram/train system to Glasgow Airport is a short term fix that will be poorly used and fails to address the main source of demand. The Scottish Government feasibility study warned that it would be barely faster than the existing bus service and would be hindered by a lack of spare capacity at Glasgow Central.
“If the rail link will not improve the existing transport network around the airport then, clearly, this would encourage very few people to leave their cars at home.
“I would much prefer this investment to consider other projects that will actually have an economic benefit for Inverclyde and other areas in the West of Scotland. Some examples of that are: creating a solution for the flooding problems on the A8 corridor in Inverclyde, building a bus station in Paisley, create a new centre at Castle Semple to increase capacity for the site, provide improvements to the A82 in West Dunbartonshire as well as consider other transport options.
Mr McMillan also revealed he has held a meeting with engineer Jim Beckett of Clyde Monorail.
Mr Beckett, who was one of the lead design engineers on the UK side of the Channel Tunnel, has drawn up alternative proposals for a monorail which he estimates would cost £300m, but provide a far bigger boost to the region’s infrastructure by incorporating intermediate stops at Renfrew – which does not have a railway station – as well as the Braehead shopping centre, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the Riverside transport museum and the SECC, en route to Glasgow Central.
Commenting on his proposals, Mr Beckett said:
“If you ran the monorail north and picked up places like Renfrew, the Braehead shopping centre, the Queen Elizabeth hospital, the transport museum, and the SECC, then you are going to generate an awful lot more business for it.
“The Clyde Monorail System would serve an airport with 8.5 million passengers per year, a retail park with a footfall of 17 million, and provide a transport link with the SECC and the Transport Museum which have combined visitor figures of 4 million per year.
“Based on the passenger numbers for the Edinburgh Tram system in comparison (5.4 million passengers per year) it is reasonable to assume that passanger numbers for the Clyde Monorail would be in excess of 5 million passengers per year.
“There is much more traffic generated by this proposal than would ever be generated by the tram-train airport link.”
Results from the Business Survey will help inform the choice between the two options. The options are currently being evaluated in an appraisal process to identify the best solution. The results will be set out in an outline business case, which is expected to be considered by Renfrewshire Council’s Leadership Board and Glasgow City Council’s Executive Committee, before being presented to the Glasgow City Region Cabinet in December 2016.
The survey, which will be open until 2 September, is available here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PBAeconomicimpact