Alternative mooted as Glasgow airport rail link axed again

Plans to build a rail link to Glasgow Airport have again been scrapped in favour of a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) scheme instead.

A plan to connect the airport to the city directly from Glasgow Central Station, also stopping at Paisley Gilmour Street station, was put forward as part of the £1.13 billion Glasgow City Region deal agreed in 2014.

Transport secretary Michael Matheson discussed the proposals with the leaders of Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils last week before the decision was made to look for an alternative project.

Plans to replace the current tram-train proposal with a Personal Rapid Transit system between the airport and Paisley have been unveiled instead, with work to prepare a business case now under way.

Funding worth £114.3 million from the City Deal was allocated to the “flagship project”, but preparatory work was halted following a Transport Scotland-commissioned report raised concerns it would have a negative impact on existing rail services from Ayrshire and Inverclyde, and on Central Station which is at capacity.

The chief executives of both Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce are unconvinced by the merits of exploring yet another proposal.

Bob Grant, chief executive of Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We question the decision once again to delay taking action to address the transport challenges facing the City Region and surface access to Glasgow Airport.

“The planned rail-link in its current form has been through extensive assessment including 2 STAG reports and 80 design iterations.  The funding exists and the economic case is clear, strongly backed by the business community - yet worryingly other options are now being explored.

“Taking time to develop yet another business case on a previously discounted project will inevitably result in further delays which will also lead to even more traffic on the M8.

“Thousands of jobs are being created in the Glasgow City Region and Renfrewshire with the development of Innovation Hubs such as the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.  Our concern, along with colleagues in Glasgow is there would appear to be no strategic plan on how to improve capacity across the transport infrastructure to facilitate this economic growth.”

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “Whilst we welcome the recognition that the growth of Glasgow Airport needs support, it is extremely disappointing to hear a Personal Rapid Transit system could be viewed as the preferred option.

“This is now the fourth review of a project that has been in development for over 12 years and we don’t believe a PRT system sufficiently tackles the connectivity issues faced by Glasgow Airport.

“Asking passengers carrying luggage to take multiple modes of transport to reach Glasgow’s city centre makes us question the level of likely customer demand, which in turn means we have to question how much of an impact this would actually have on traffic volumes on the badly congested M8 to the Airport.

“If capacity constraints in Central Station are genuinely an obstacle to the existing light rail plan - and we have seen conflicting expert opinion on that point - it suggests Transport Scotland has been rather neglecting the consequences for the station of economic and population growth in the West of Scotland.  One must ask why there has been insufficient investment in Central Station to allow for growing passenger demand. 

“Given the economic importance of Glasgow Airport -confirmed only yesterday in a York aviation report - it is depressing how little urgency is being placed on supporting the Airport’s growth plans. 

Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “It’s crucial that improving access to Glasgow Airport is balanced with the needs of the region’s existing transport network.

“The Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system option potentially meets this aim, and I look forward to seeing the revised business case once it’s completed.”

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