TRAMS which can run on rail lines are to be considered by ministers for a new link between Glasgow Airport and the city centre – five years after they axed a planned rail line to the terminal.
Transport minister Keith Brown announced the move yesterday ahead of the publication of a long-awaited study into improving access to Scotland’s second busiest airport.
It comes three years after it was revealed that a rail-based link was being revived by the airport as part of the research.
Labour angrily denounced the news as a U-turn after the Scottish Government cancelled the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl) project in 2009,
So-called “tram-trains” could capitalise on parts of the scheme which survived the axe. These include upgraded signalling and a third track being added to the main Paisley-Glasgow line to provide space for more trains.
Two new platforms, originally planned for airport trains, have also been built at Glasgow Central station.
A one-mile tram line from the airport terminal to join the rail line in Paisley is considered to be cheaper than a railway branch line, and could include tighter curves to avoid obstacles such as the airport’s fuel depot.
Such obstructions were a major factor in the cost of the proposed Garl soaring to £210 million, which led to it being scrapped. Tram-trains operate in several European countries.
Glasgow will be the last Central Belt airport without a tram or train link when Edinburgh is connected via the city’s new tram line in May.
Mr Brown said short-term airport access improvements to Glasgow Airport included upgrading bus links, such as the one to Paisley Gilmour Street station. He added: “In the longer term, the study indicates a tram-train option running from the airport, which would then join the existing rail network into Glasgow Central, could be the most effective way to improve public transport access to the airport from the city centre.
“While the appraisal does not give us all of the answers, particularly around passenger forecasts and risks, we will now consider the proposal for a tram-0train link from Glasgow Airport onto the existing rail network into Glasgow Central, and I have asked my officials to carry out further work on how this might be delivered.”
Labour infrastructure spokesman James Kelly said: “This is a U-turn from the SNP and comes after they spent £30m of public money to axe the original Garl project and sold the land off at knockdown prices. Garl was a viable, valuable project which would have brought 1,300 jobs to the area and £300m to the
local economy, and was supported by the business community.”
The Confederation of Passenger Transport in Scotland, which represents the bus industry, said bus lanes on the M8 would be far cheaper. Spokesman Paul White said: “The expected cost of Garl was £200m, and as we have seen from Edinburgh’s experience, these costs can rise exponentially. Grand infrastructure projects are not always the answer.”
A spokesman for Glasgow Airport said: “The study identifies a tram-train option as having the greatest potential to deliver modal shift and enhance surface access.”
The Glasgow Airport Strategic Transport Network Study was led by Glasgow Airport, along with the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency, Renfrewshire Council and Glasgow City Council
Glasgow could see trams once more if a proposed tram-train link to the city’s airport goes ahead