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Chaotic planning leaves monorail up in the air

Terry smiling headAnyone looking for good examples of the chaotic approach to planning in this country need look no further than the scattergun development along the M8 corridor south of Glasgow.

Ever since the Kingston Bridge was constructed in the late 1960s, the planners have sought solutions to problems largely created by themselves.

The Bridge is a case in point, feeding into an underpass which is too narrow to cope with the traffic flowing from either side. A better design beyond the bridge would have taken the motorway traffic above ground along an eight-lane carriageway, with city traffic diverted underground. As it is, the underpass is a bottleneck made worse by the extension of the M77.

The city was then forced to wait 40 years for the ‘missing link’ to be finally built, creating alternative route from the south to the M8 running east.

New plans have now been put forward to tackle the haphazard development along the 10 mile stretch to the south by building a monorail between Glasgow Central station and the airport. Significantly, it would stop at a number of key locations, such as the SECC and Braehead shopping centre.

There is no certainty, and probably no likelihood, that Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils will accept this more expensive but vastly more sensible alternative to their plans for a tram which goes nowhere except the airport.

This looks like another mistake waiting to happen.

Hundreds of acres of land have been brought into use commercially and residentially along the M8, helping to create lots of businesses and jobs. But there has been only prevarication over providing the infrastructure to support such huge development.

When plans were unveiled years ago for further housing and retail space at Braehead it was obvious that one thing was missing. When asked what plans were being put in place for a possible rail link into Glasgow to avoid pouring more traffic onto an already congested motorway, I  was told: “None, but we are creating a network of cycle lanes”.

Who encourages retail sheds selling televisions, beds and carpets and expects shoppers to take them home on a bike? And who builds thousands of houses ten miles out of the city and alongside a motorway and doesn’t expect it to generate more car-borne traffic?

The truth is that the railway line from Glasgow, via Hillington and Paisley is on the south side of the M8, while all the places people want to visit – the Airport, the David Lloyd Leisure Centre, Braehead, X-cape, the extended business park, and the hospital – are all on the north side.

Glasgow airport monorailExpansion should never have been allowed until a rail link had been built. But this is not how things work in Britain. First create the problem, then look for a solution, preferably one that will be more expensive than it would have cost to put it right in the first place.

It has been a common factor across the UK that business and retail parks have been built alongside motorways, rather than close to rail lines. One exception is the MetroCentre in Gateshead linking shoppers into the greater Newcastle area. Edinburgh has made amends by building the tram to the airport following a route that goes through the Gyle Business park and land which will be opened up for development.

Glasgow, sadly, has only toyed with sorting out this problem. It canned the GARL scheme in 2009, and a proposal to resurrect it in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games was also shoved back in the drawer.

Retired engineer Jim Beckett is to be commended for his imaginative monorail scheme. What a pity that it is unlikely to carry a single passenger.



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