Professor David Begg chaired the commission that produced the report, which proposes development of a Glasgow metro, connection of the city’s two main city rail terminals and preparation of Glasgow Central Station for HS2. Taken together, the total cost has been put at about £10bn.
The report also covers how to pay for what is described as one of the biggest infrastructure interventions Glasgow has seen in the last half-century. “It would be easy to baulk at their scale,” said Begg. “But we were persuaded by evidence that this could deliver a step-change in the performance of Scotland’s economic powerhouse, delivering a more prosperous, sustainable and inclusive city region at the heart of a thriving national economy. We need to raise Glasgow’s levels of ambition if such a transformation is to be achieved.”
Begg said that he initially planned for a single report to cover all the strategic transport issues the city region faces. “But the range and complexity of the issues we encountered and the time required to consider adequate solutions led us to publish two,” he said. The first report, published last November, argued for reshaping of Glasgow’s streetscapes, measures to reverse a steep decline in bus use and a reprioritisation of modes to favour healthy forms of travel such as walking and cycling. “In the second report, which focusses on matters outwith the control of Glasgow City Council, we have tackled some similarly big issues,” he said.
He said that the largely inherited Victorian network includes some significant gaps, most notably in the area to the south west of the city including Glasgow Airport, where economic development has recently been concentrated, and in the lack of provision for large areas of the city which are underperforming economically. “It is now time to consider strategic changes which not merely add to our already congested network but reshape its purpose in order to support future growth for the decades ahead, including connecting to new HS2 services,” he said.
Glasgow is a city of connectivity contradictions and contrasts, says the report. For instance, it has the UK’s best suburban rail network outside London, where passenger numbers have grown exponentially over the last decade. On the other hand, its bus network, responsible for carrying a far greater number of passengers, has experienced the steepest decline of any UK city over that same decade. Glasgow has also seen strong investment in its strategic road network, with the recent completion of the M74 and infrastructure improvements on the M8, M73 & M74. Yet it has one of the lowest levels of car ownership in Britain.
The commission’s phase two recommendations included creation of a single, holistic development plan for the city region focused on its transport system. Transport Scotland should take lead responsibility for the development of the Glasgow Metro, Glasgow Central HS2 terminus and Queen Street/Central Station tunnel. This would include creating a rail link between Paisley Gilmour Street and Glasgow Airport using currently identified City Deal. It should be built using technology that would enable this to be extended to become the first leg of the Glasgow Metro, says the report.