Glasgow & West Scotland

Decision to drop Glasgow Airport rail link idea 'a betrayal'

Glasgow Airport terminal
Image caption The report said Glasgow Airport handled £3.5bn in global trade in 2017

A former council leader has hit out at a decision not to pursue plans for a direct rail link between Glasgow city centre and Glasgow Airport.

They were discarded to make way for an alternative shuttle pod system between the airport and Paisley Gilmour Street station.

Glasgow Labour leader Frank McAveety said it was a "betrayal for the city".

However, Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said an investment in a direct rail link was a "massive risk".

The direct rail link was announced as part of the £1.13bn Glasgow City Region deal agreed in 2014 and was expected to be operational by 2025.

After several delays and concerns over rail capacity at Glasgow Central station, it was indicated that different options would be explored.

'City needs this'

Mr McAveety, former chairman of the City Region Cabinet, which progressed the plans, said the decision meant Glasgow remained "one of few cities of its size that does not have a dedicated rail link to its airport".

He continued: "What has Glasgow done to deserve this?

"This is the second time that Glasgow has had its rail link project axed by the SNP."

Mr McAveety added: "This is a betrayal for the city. The Glasgow Airport Rail Link project has undergone review after review.

"Our city is growing year-on-year and continues to be the powerhouse of the Scottish economy.

"It's time the SNP stopped dragging their feet, put the Glasgow Airport Rail Link project back on track and invested in the railway network that our city needs."

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said she would continue to listen to concerns raised by transport professionals over the viability of a rail link.

She said: "Improving connectivity to Glasgow Airport is a key priority and one I'm absolutely committed to.

"However, serious doubts remain about the viability of the option Mr McAveety continues to champion, about major detrimental impacts upon the daily running of the country's biggest railway station and whether tram-train financially stacks up.

"Councillor McAveety would prefer that I give up on finding a workable solution, close my ears to the repeated concerns from transport professionals and take a massive risk with valuable public finances and our wider transport network. That's not leadership and I won't take that risk."

'Behind Europe'

She added: "Scotland has recent examples of major projects which were not properly costed with disastrous consequences.

"I therefore want to see business cases for both the tram-train and PRT (passenger rail transport) solutions so we can make a fully informed choice about which option is best for our city."

Recent plans to connect Glasgow Airport to the rail network faltered in 2017 amid concern about their economic impact to existing infrastructure.

Last month airport bosses shared concerns over the reliance on road access amid worsening congestion on the M8.

Glasgow Airport managing director Mark Johnston told BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We're the only airport in Europe that has road as its only means of access.

"The recent studies have shown that the congestion is only increasing on the M8. We have the funding available through the City Deal, so I think there's a genuine acceptance that something needs to happen."

The Scottish government said it supported the decision to scrap the city centre link, made by the Airport Access Project Executive Steering Group.

A spokesman said: "It is crucial that improving access to Glasgow Airport is balanced with the needs of all users of the region's transport network and avoids a negative impact on users of the rail network in particular.

"The personal rapid transit system option potentially meets this aim, so it is sensible that it is fully explored before a final decision is made. As this is a City Region Deal project any decision rests with the City Region Deal Cabinet."

More on this story