Tram/Train and opportunity for Renfrewshire. My proposal.

The Tram/Train is coming. Well, it’s planned.

As I’ve blogged before, I think there’s a real hope that a tram/train solution is best as the way to answer the issue of public transport access to Glasgow Airport.

I think I’ve covered the benefits of a tram/train route that weaves it’s way to the Airport rather than a heavy rail solution through St James’s Park.

I’ve previously shown the vehicles proposed from Vossloh that will do the Sheffield to Rotherham Trial on the Supertram network.

 I hope I’ve answered the size, capacity and speed issues that these vehicles can provide. 

The linespeed at 75mph on the Arkleston to Shields corridor is just above their stated maximum, maybe that can be tweaked, with improved performanc.

I think it is the answer, I think it beats a cable car /people mover over a mile long between Paisley Gilmour Street and the Airport, the very idea of a sealed tube intruding through the north of the town is ridiculous. 

I think Tram/Train answers the issue of the GARL route and the nonsense of a huge viaduct over St James’s Park and the idea of a high bridge over a point of the M8 and A737 at their widest. The bridge would have been ridiculously high and visible.

My illustration skills aren’t the best, but I think they’ll convey an idea and I stress it to be an idea.

A next step for a Tram/Train, once up and running between Glasgow Airport and Central Station,  might be to think, well how about getting them off the railway at say West Street, provide an interchange to the Subway and run them on street  in a loop passing Central Station, Buchanan Street Bus Station and Queen Street Station. 

That’d remove the need for platform capacity at Central Station, make a visible modern statement about transport and penetrate the city linking to the City Centre and the main transport hubs.

Potentially maybe eight to ten kilometres of extra track on a one way circuit, but maybe obtrusive, difficult to close a number of key road and it’d require a slope/ bridge to the street level, a platform system at West Street and the skills and abilities to manage a complex scheme.

Maybe it’s one way to build on tram/train to the Airport, but building from the great vision that Angus Doyle showed last year with his Greater Glasgow Transit Map, I thought, well a city street link is one thing, but if there’s an opportunity to get Tram/Train vehicles to the Airport, then can we look further in Renfrewshire?

Phase 2 – extending to Braehead and Erskine.



Renfrew is one of the largest towns in Scotland without rail access. A population of just over 20,000. 
There are plans for more development at ‘Renfrew Riverside’ and to improve road connections into the town and on the north side of the town.

Braehead has been a successful commercial development and has driven regeneration. It has its own issues with congestion at peak periods.

Erskine is effectively Renfrewshire’s ‘New Town’, a popular residential location, but could use a rail link. Population of over 15,000.

The proposal is to run north of the Airport, past its western boundaries, perhaps with a realigned Inchinnan Road, perhaps looking to cross the White Cart where it is proposed to link into the Westway Business Park.

Alternatively it could run all the way up to the junction of the White and Black Cart Waters and split there to head toward either town.

I think a detailed route could be found to serve Renfrew, I think there’s a opportunity to look to link to Erskine and pass the Inchinnan Business Park too.

It could be approximately 8 to 10 kilometres of additional route to reach Renfrew and then Braehead.

Erskine to Braehead could be another 11 kilometres.

Say 20 kilometres of route, a total of  40 kilometres if all a double tracked route. Quite long sections could be off street on a dedicated route to speed journey times.

A question is how much that might cost, I’ve seen quoted figures of £10 Million per kilometre, £15 million or even £20 to £25 million per kilometre.

At a potential cost of around £20 Million pound per kilometre, it could be around £800 Million pound investment, if nearer  £15 million a kilometre it would be £600 Million. A knowledgable cost estimate, a properly surveyed and identified route and tying together local and specialist knowledge in a project planning stage could make a huge difference.

There might also be a good and decent knowledge base in Scotland for wiring electric railway projects. Following the Airdrie/Bathgate scheme on the North Clyde Line, there have been reopenings and also electrification schemes almost following on from each other and indeed even after the biggest scheme, EGIP, the rolling programme is intended to continue.

The partnership scheme for the Paisley Canal line in 2012 is of most interest, it was innovative, cheap and fast and for a relative short route length. Similar to many of the sections that I propose.

To guess at current costs is always dangerous, so I’ll be cautious and say £800 Million.

I’d think that if four tram/trains per hour are intended to serve the Airport, that two could extend to Braehead through Renfrew and the other two could serve to Erskine as an extension.

If a T junction or a Y junction with the ends capped is designed then a run along the Clydeside from Erskine to Braehead could run as an additional service.

This Phase Two would link the City and Airport with Braehead and Erskine. It is the Pink line on my plan, following from the Airport link. 

I have added in Orange, the proposed extension of the Fastlink route at least as far as Braehead, this might be conventional bus on a dedicated route, Bus Rapid Transport to a pre-metro standard route, or a fully specified tramway in itself by the time we reach 2025 or beyond. It may well be that Braehead is terminus/interchange for both means of transport

 I’d love to speculate that a tram might then reach Govan via the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital complex from Renfrew and Braehead but that would be hopeful of me, but maybe it’s a maybe in future. 

A Riverside tram line from Govan through Braehead and Renfrew might tick boxes for connectivity especially if Fastlink is an established transit network on its own alignment.

Phase 3 – A reopening opportunity.


Phase Three of my proposal is again a pink line and I’d look at the possible extension or rather, re-opening by Tram/Train of the Canal Line to Kilmacolm with main stops at Elderslie, Linwood, near to Houston, at Bridge of Weir and at Kilmacolm. 

The rail alignment is mainly intact as a Cycle Path, a section of Tram/Train track leaving Paisley Canal and street running on Canal Street in Paisley before rejoining the old alignment might unlock any problem with housing built after the 1980’s original closure.

I have also speculated that an option on running onto Kilbarchan and looking at what could be done with the old Lochwinnoch Loop line, it would perhaps give an option to run a section of track toward Castle Semple Loch and give another onward option from Canal Street in Paisley.

A reopened Paisley West halt provides another area of Paisley with a fixed link. I have speculated that a future extension toward the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) might also be possible and certainly wouldn’t be far away.

Linwood had seen much redevelopment with the Phoenix development on the former car plant site and there might be an opportunity to serve this area as well as get near to the town centre. 

As with the existing Canal Street line, much of the line could be single tracked using Double track at stations or as passing sections where possible.

Paisley to Kilmacolm is maybe 16 kilometres and Kilbarchan to Elderslie another 6 with another 8 to a Lochwinnoch Town terminus.

Again approximately 40 route kilometres and with stops and stations this could again add up to another £800 Million, the single track sections and use of existing alignments might make this figure lower.

By this point, the communities of Renfrewshire are well linked into either Canal Street Station or Gilmour Street Station and onward to Glasgow via their existing heavy rail routes.

I’ve speculated on city centre running and the possibility of fastlink extending into Braehead. 

These could optimise my proposals and if Tram is to be an option for the Greater Glasgow area, then we’ve heard speculation of conversion of the Cathcart Circle line to Tram Operation or the possibility that capping the Argyle line at Exhibition Centre might solve issues with frequency at the Partick/Hyndland corridor.

Maybe there’s a possible wider network, maybe there isn’t.

For me, my interest is the possibilities at Renfrewshire, but what of its biggest town? Paisley.

Phase 4. A street running interlink through Paisley 


This proposal would link the outer lying lines with a double track route on street from Glasgow Airport, past Gilmour Street station at Ground Level with a stop and interchange at County Square before going down Causeyside Street to link to the On-Street section at Canal Street station. 

It would be approximately 12 kilometres of route, but more complex and without dedicated route and sharing street space. It would add to frequencies at the end of each line. 

It would allow a cross town type service from say Braehead to Kilmacolm or Kilbarchan to Erskine. This maximises utilisation, increases frequency between the key points and links. Tram vehicles could be used on those services and an interlaced frequency complementing the Tram Trains takes the system into a near turn up and go frequency.

Another option might be to run  tram/trains off after Paisley St James to the Airport, run on street through Paisley and to return to Paisley Canal Street in a looped service either direction to and from Glasgow. that may appeal as a single path out, matches to a single path in and if the Tram Trains were operated by Scotrail and used an expanded Glasgow Central terminus platforms, then it again helps to offer additional frequent services and might get near to the metro type turn up and go experience for travellers.

Costs for this phase might be high to negotiate Paisley’s one way road system and give ‘tram priority’ but it could be that the experience harnessed in earlier phases could lower the costs and bring a real step change in connectivity, transport possibilities and regeneration and business opportunities.

I think the costs of this phase could be around £250 million, but the benefits and possibilities of connecting up what has already been a Tram Train extension or a reopening using Tram Train into a network that could, and I stress, could transform  the area and provide a transit system complementary to the existing railway.

The network in full would look as follows.

I’m not an artist and I couldn’t layout a system in a neat way, so this is merely illustrative and an indicator. I wouldn’t dream of a line diagram or a network running proposal.

I think the obvious bits are

Tram Train services

City Centre to Airport (initially).

Glasgow – Airport – Braehead.

Glasgow – Airport – Erskine.

Tram Train Reopenings

Glasgow – Paisley Canal – Kilmacolm.

Glasgow – Paisley Canal – Lochwinnoch.

For the Tram Routes, I think it’s clearly two terminals at one side of Paisley and two at another side.

Kilmacolm – Paisley – Braehead.

Lochwinnoch – Paisley – Erskine.

I also see a loop service running off one of the Heavy Rail lines and back on another.

Glasgow – Paisley Canal – Town Centre – Airport – Paisley St James – Paisley Gilmour Street – Glasgow. And vice versa.

Phase 5. 

The next steps to my scheme are looking at the logical extensions.

I think there are two, the first is from the Paisley West Station to the Royal Alexandra Hospital. The second is from Erskine toward Bishopton Railway Station. I’ve drawn them yellow on my plan as a guess at ‘what next’. Both are relatively short extensions and might offer peak time or additional services opportunities.

I’d be less realistic in drawing lines for extensions across the Clyde from Renfrew to Yoker or Erskine to say, Dalmuir Railway Station. The opportunity is the connection to The North Clyde Line, a interchange onto a route network running from Dunbartonshire through Glasgow City Centre and onto Edinburgh. 

A bridge is proposed between Renfrew and Yoker, might a transport route be worked into that proposal? Obviously there’s a bridge over the Clyde at Erskine, could it be tweaked to carry a single line tramway? 

And if it could, there are lines/former lines nearby on the north side of the river. Dalmuir has 5 platforms and is a terminus for the Argyle Line services and is where the Singer and Yoker branches of the North Clyde Line join up. 

A proposed Tram/Train coming from Airport and Erskine might only need a terminating bay at Dalmuir, it might be too complex to run  to points further east and disrupt the existing service patterns. Certainly as an interchange it’s quite attractive and offers a range of onward possibilities.

To the west and more likely is an interchange with Fastlink and if that stays as A bus scheme or evolves to a Tram scheme as I would hope, then it may offer even more opportunity and possibilities.


It’s unlikely.

Vision and direction for such a project would be competing with other schemes across Scotland over the next few terms of parliament and terms of the Network Rail control period. Schemes are already pencilled in or even much, much further.

The costs are big, but would have a possible ability to link up at least two if not three transport proposals, it would be a Big Bang, but as a phased scheme my proposals have a stepping stone basis, certainly elements might work alone. 

The total cost is something that wouldn’t go down well in this era of austerity, even if the proposed network was a success, was used by the public. The Edinburgh Trams scheme would place a load of examination on any new scheme in Scotland, it is a prism through which other proposals would be judged. 

European Money for these sort of schemes isn’t there. It’s not likely in future either, even if an IN campaign wins the referendum. 

Politically, proposals like this might be looked at as a possibility, but there’s other issues, other matters pressing.

There isn’t a proven link between the availability of fixed transport and economic opportunity, there’s good examples that people cite and aspire to. For me, things like the Manchester Metrolink and the London Overground show what can be done if the ability is there. 

I think we will see Tram/Train. I think we can look hard at the pros and cons, but it seems minds are fixed to an extent on the ‘need’ for heavy rail. I fully support rolling electrification and being able to utilise bi-mode trains off the wires, but if the big tickets of the bi-mode trains and High Speed Rail is possible for long distance services, then what about locally and regionally, can the feeding services be trams or tram trains.

The Bus interests would be unhappy with a proposal like mine, it takes a fixed link over the key points of at least one operators network and there are business interest and jobs that would be affected. Very clearly, if you are to make such a proposal to advocate modal change and better journey times, then it will need to attract the existing travelling public and attract more. 

They can rightly say they have been improving their fleets, have adapted to changes in demand and legislation on engine types. Very possibly they’ve not done much wrong, but are caught in between wanting to do better and negotiating heavy traffic on their routes. They might point at Local Authorities and Government to ask about investment in Bus Priorities or giving them a ‘clear track’ to run their services.

The arguments are there. It might be that a coalition of different points and views would sink a proposal like mine. It might be that money and resource simply isn’t there to be invested. It might be that proposals that aren’t on the existing lists with Government, Councils and Transport Authorities won’t  shine through against other schemes.


I float the proposal, I look at the possibility, I’ve been thinking over the possibilities for some time, I’m not a professional, I mean well and I mean to inform.

I think there’s much that needs to be considered. I think the issues of congestion will become more apparent, I do not think road building will get around the issue. Demand is locational and people’s desire to go places means the car will be in most cases, the quickest and best option. (An ‘If’ to consider is:-  What If we don’t go in this direction’)

In cities where transport interventions have been made, I think we see an economic lift and a opportunity lift. Good local transport links help bring certainty for developers and development can follow that intervention. A benefit/cost analysis might shatter my rosy view on my proposal, but I’d hazard that it would stand up as an overall intervention. If it links to other schemes and proposals, it might look better. 

I think ‘Regeneration’ can work by looking at transport as a lever to getting people moving, literally and also in the sense that connecting places creates opportunity, to shop, get to work, college, school. I think you create jobs in the project, the building and the operations of a new network. It balances with disruption during construction and change created by people swapping from existing bus services. But longer term gains come in having a means to get past road congestion, move people from car dependency, give opportunity for park and ride, make a travel smart card a means of freedom for young and not so young people.

I hope at least, I’ve raised a point, show a possibility.


One thought on “Tram/Train and opportunity for Renfrewshire. My proposal.

  1. Pingback: Updated. Tram/train – an opportunity for Renfrewshire?  | Chic Gibson – A blog of sorts

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