Glasgow Airport Metro system gets council leader approval
Plans for a metro link for Glasgow Airport have been agreed by council leaders in Glasgow and Renfrewshire.
The first phase of the proposed Glasgow Metro would link Paisley Gilmour Street train station and Glasgow airport, before extending further east.
The announcement came ahead of a conference on the state of the economy and infrastructure in Glasgow.
An airport rail link has been promised for years with different proposals approved and later scrapped.
The Glasgow Metro was first proposed by a commission tasked with improving the city's infrastructure in April last year.
Now the leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, has said the metro's first phase will be between the airport and Paisley Gilmour Street train station.
Both of these sites are within Renfrewshire Council, and Cllr Aitken said the leaders of both councils have agreed funding for the project, although the support of the councils' members will have to be secured before work can begin.
Connecting the airport
Various proposals for some kind of rail link for Glasgow Airport have been made for well over a decade.
- In 2006, a private bill was introduced and passed in the Scottish Parliament calling for a service integrated into the existing rail network.
- The £120m Glasgow Airport Rail Link was scrapped in 2009 when the Scottish government reduced its budget amid UK-wide austerity cuts in public spending.
- The plans were resurrected in 2014, when eight local authorities around Glasgow agreed to a City Region deal worth £1.13bn, which was designed to fund major infrastructure around the city.
- Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils then proposed two rail link options for the airport using the funds from the City Region deal: a tram-train line and a new light rail system, both running via Paisley.
The tram-train proposal, involving a specially-designed hybrid tram-train using the existing railway network and on-street tracks, was chosen as the preferred option in November 2016.
Construction was due to begin in 2022 with the line operational by 2025, but a report into the proposal raised significant concerns with its viability.
In February 2019, Cllr Aitken told a Scottish Parliament committee that the report into the tram-train proposals said it could not be delivered within the £144m budget.
She also said the report raised concerns over "longer-term operational viability and sustainability" but did promise that Glasgow Airport would eventually receive some kind of rail link.
Separately from the Glasgow Airport rail link, in April last year Glasgow's Connectivity Commission proposed a city-wide metro system, to connect areas with little transport infrastructure and boost the economy.
The proposal was mentioned in the Scottish government's latest Programme for Government, which said it will "consider the potential for a Glasgow Metro, which builds on the planned City Region Deal investment to link Glasgow Airport and the new National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland to Paisley Gilmour Street."
It is this plan, to connect Paisley Gilmour St train station and the airport with a tram, which Cllr Aitken said has been accepted as the first phase in the wider Glasgow Metro proposal.
Speaking ahead of the State of the City Economy Conference, she said the council's ambitions were making "considerable progress".
She added: "The Scottish government has pledged to work with us on the Commission's recommendations, while Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils will undertake the feasibility work required to ensure it can be considered as a key, national project. Funding is already in place to deliver a first phase, linking Paisley with Glasgow Airport."
Now that funding is in place, reports will be prepared and submitted to both councils for approval. Exact dates for these votes have not been confirmed but they are expected soon.
A Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said a link between the airport and Paisley Gilmour Street station was "critical to improving sustainable travel choices and will make a significant impact on improved journey times and connections for business and for airport users and employees."
They added: "This will deliver benefits not only across Renfrewshire, the Glasgow City Region and the west of Scotland, but across the country. Subject to approval by elected members and the City Region Cabinet, we will work closely with Glasgow City Council and Transport Scotland in progressing these proposals."
Managing director of Glasgow Airport, Mark Johnston, said: "The city's metro proposals are compelling and demonstrate real ambition to deliver a much needed, sustainable transport system."