End of Glasgow’s Red Road, with 600lb of explosives

All that is left is a pile of rubble and twisted metal. Picture: Wattie Cheung
All that is left is a pile of rubble and twisted metal. Picture: Wattie Cheung
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Glasgow’s skyline was changed yesterday when part of the iconic Red Road high rise estate was demolished.

Thousands gathered around the edge of the exclusion zone to watch the multi-storey block of flats detonated.

Many ex-residents of the north-Glasgow estate returned with their families to witness their former homes being demolished – some bringing deck chairs so that they could enjoy the event in comfort.

The demolition of 153-213 Petershill Drive marks the start of the clearing of the estate which, when completed in 1969, seemed to offer a solution to Glasgow’s housing problem.

Latterly, the estate’s name had become a byword for anti-social behaviour and deprivation.

Just before 12:45pm yesterday, a siren sounded, and a single blast rang out as a deafening explosion ripped along the eigth and tenth floors of the tower.

The building buckled in the middle, then collapsed forward with a dull roar that drowned out the cheers of the crowds, sending up a vast cloud of dust that rolled out across the streets.

When the cloud cleared, all that remained were the mangled, ragged remains of its steel structure jutting out a mountain of masonry. A smell of dust and sulphur hung in the area.

The demolition was the conclusion of 18 months of preparation, which included the stripping out of potentially toxic materials such as asbestos from the building and the installation of 275 kilos (600lb) of special explosives – the same type used by Nasa to detach the fuel tanks from its space shuttles – to topple the tower block.

Watching the demolition yesterday, Kenny Bain, 43, who left the estate in 1993, said: “Part of me is sad about them coming down, but I’m also glad because they’d served their time and they’d become an eyesore.

“They were great to live in back at the beginning. People have got it wrong about the flats – they had a real sense of community. You could shout out to friends across in other blocks and arrange to go out.

“Even when I left, I would still come back because I had a lot of links with it.”

Fellow former-resident Raymond Shaw, 43, agreed: “People forget how bus-loads of people would come up to play at the bingo hall on the estate. It was the sort of place where you could go to school, do your shopping and then go out, and never have to leave the place.”

Both said that the estate began to go into the decline in the mid-1980s, when the original residents moved out.

The remaining seven multi-storeys are to be demolished by 2017.