Glasgow Subway 'to be twice the size'

Key quote

"A similar eastern circle was proposed in the 1930s. This is precisely the kind of thing we should be doing if we are serious about improving the competitiveness and regeneration of the east end of Glasgow." - Dr Iain Docherty

Story in full GLASGOW'S 110-year-old Subway could be doubled in size, with an extension to Celtic Park, under plans due to be unveiled today.

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A second loop would circle through the east of the city, serving seven new stations and sharing three of the stations on the existing line. Another option could see the current line extended to the West End.

Officials have advised Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), which runs the Subway, to order further work on the plans to modernise the system.

Rail experts backed the proposals as key for regenerating the east end of Glasgow, but opposition councillors said the existing system should be completely overhauled first.

Schemes for extending the Subway have been discussed for decades, with an eastern loop similar to the latest plans being considered back in the 1930s.

However, the track is narrower and the trains are smaller than on the rest of the rail network. Any extension is likely to be on standard gauge so it could be closer linked with rail.

A network of disused railway tunnels could be used for part of the new eastern route, including one that runs yards from the entrance to Celtic Park.

The new eastern loop would run parallel with the current system under the city centre, with interchange stations at Buchanan Street, St Enoch and Bridge Street in the Gorbals.

The second circle would then branch off to the south-east, via a new, second Gorbals station; and others at Newhall, near Rutherglen Bridge; Dalmarnock, Celtic Park, Duke Street, Onslow in Dennistoun and St Mungo's, close to Glasgow Cathedral and Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

The stops at Dalmarnock and Duke Street would be railway interchanges with suburban line stations.

To the west, the Subway could be extended from the existing Kelvinbridge station, again using old tunnels. A spur could run south to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, which is already on the rail network, and north to Maryhill, which is also on a rail line.

A further extension could run west from Govan to Renfrew and Paisley, but this is more likely to be a tram line or rapid busway.

The extension options follow SPT ordering a long-term development strategy last year that provided "an effective transport system for the Subway catchment and dispersal area which dovetails with and complements the overall transport network, meeting current and future (10-30 years) transport needs".

The strategy rejected other options, including closing the Subway, or replacing it with buses or trams.

However, it has yet to specify how extensive upgrading of the existing circle should be, from "do minimum" to "full modernisation".

Dr Iain Docherty, a transport expert and senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow Business School, said the plans were not before time.

He said: "A similar eastern circle was proposed in the 1930s. This is precisely the kind of thing we should be doing if we are serious about improving the competitiveness and regeneration of the east end of Glasgow."

Dr Docherty said Subways were not necessarily more expensive than trams, and could carry more people - and faster.

However, John Mason, an SPT member and leader of the opposition SNP group on Glasgow City Council, said a full-scale overhaul of the existing system should be the priority.

He said: "Ideally, we would replace the trains and tunnels so the Subway would become a full-scale metro and we could buy trains off the shelf rather than have to have them specially made, which has proved so expensive."

New impetus has come from Glasgow's bid for the Commonwealth Games in 2014, which would be centred on the east end of the city.

CITY'S UNIQUE RAIL SYSTEM

GLASGOW joined only London and Budapest in boasting a subway when the six-mile circle opened in January 1897.

Railway lines already crossed the city centre in long tunnels, but the Glasgow District Subway was conceived to tackle mounting congestion, and included the first tunnel under the Clyde.

The 15-station Subway was originally cabled hauled - the only one of its type in the world - before being electrified in 1935.

It was renamed the Underground the following year, and closed for complete modernisation in 1977, to be reopened in 1980.

The system has latterly reverted to its original name, and officials say locals have never used the Clockwork Orange nickname often referred to by the media.

The Clockwork Orange name has become less relevant since the orange trains have reverted to SPT's carmine red and cream livery.

The Subway's small-size trains reflect the system's unique 4ft track gauge, compared to 4ft 8.5 in for the rest of the UK rail network.

The system links the city centre with the West End, Govan, Ibrox and the Gorbals, and carries 13 million passengers a year, with a staff of 370.

The trains are nearly fully automated, with drivers checking doors and starting off from stations, but propulsion and braking are centrally controlled.