STPR Glasgow Terminals Capacity. Is extending the Argyle Line the answer?

I’ve been puzzling over the recent additions to the STPR (Scottish Transport Projects Review) on the Transport Scotland website without much success recently. I’ve quoted them below.

24 – West of Scotland Strategic Rail Enhancements

Intervention description

A.245 This intervention supports the terminal capacity issues in Glasgow, which significantly constrain the future ability of the rail network in the West of Scotland to respond to challenges and facilitate change. This intervention supports the objectives to address rail capacity issues in central Glasgow and increase public transport access to areas of economic activity. It also assists in contributing to objectives within corridors that serve Glasgow. The detail of the strategy builds on improvements to be delivered through the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvements Programme, and could include:

The development of a Metro/Light Rapid Transit network across Glasgow comprising a mixture of conversion of heavy rail (e.g. part or all of the Cathcart Circle), lines on existing redundant infrastructure (e.g. Great Western Road / Botanic Gardens), new lines (e.g. Clyde Waterfront) and some on-road or next-to-road sections; and/or

The provision of a new city centre station linking the rail network to the south and east of the city; and/or

The provision of a new city centre station linking the north and south rail networks.

A.246 Both of the new city centre station options would provide additional platform capacity in the city centre and permit cross-city services to be provided.

A.247 A Metro/Light Rapid Transit system could include new stations, improved service frequencies and improved access to and across central Glasgow. The system would be rolled out on a phased basis. The operational concept for the system using proven technology could be expanded to include a new crossing of the Clyde to around the Southern General Hospital and other lines to link areas not currently served by the heavy rail network.

Contribution towards the Scottish Government’s Purpose

A.248 Existing Glasgow rail terminal capacity will be at capacity within the timeframe of the STPR. The lack of future rail terminal capacity places a significant constraint on the provision of additional rail services to meet future growth.

A.249 The analysis has identified that previous development of the rail network in the West of Scotland has been successful in making best use of the network by implementing small scale interventions and targeting individual constraints. The issue of terminal capacity cannot be addressed in this way, meaning that a ‘step-change’ is required in order to meet predicted future demand. This ‘step-change’ will be supported by some smaller scale interventions and enabling works. Some of these may be deliverable earlier than the major component(s) and allow some interim relief to be gained.

A.250 Detailed analysis of the problems has been undertaken to understand the nature of the terminal capacity issues within the wider West of Scotland context. This analysis, in conjunction with the objectives, has allowed the identification of broad core elements, each of which could form the basis of the strategy to address the objectives:

Development of a Metro/Light Rapid Transit network; and/or

New city centre station to improve capacity and cross city links.

A.251 Development of these core elements has been undertaken to a level to confirm that each could provide a workable solution. This has included consideration of phasing and interaction both within and beyond the STPR period to deliver a meaningful solution. The elements identified vary in terms of cost, risk, phasing, potential benefits, delivery timescale and in the way that they address the objectives. The elements are also not exclusive, so the strategy could for example include a new city centre station and the development of certain Metro/light Rapid Transit lines.

A.252 The strategy will provide a level of ‘step-change’ that permits a fundamental restructuring and realignment of services across the West of Scotland and potentially beyond. The details of this are undefined, meaning that the potential benefits that could be gained are not yet fully understood. Similarly, the extent to which the Metro/Light Rapid Transit network would be developed is not a fixed proposal, but a number of phases have been identified and considered. It is however understood that the additional capacity provided by the overall strategy would be such that it would provide for a variety of potential service enhancements, including other interventions identified within STPR.

A.253 This intervention would complement the development of intercity rail operations, giving an expanded public transport hierarchy. Metro/Light Rapid Transit could provide for inner suburban movements, leaving heavy rail to cater principally for outer suburban and links to surrounding towns. By providing cross-city routes, the Metro/Light Rapid Transit network could connect across Glasgow and also take pressure off the existing interchange facilities focused in the city centre.

Links to other strategies

A.254 The need to target capacity issues in the Glasgow suburban network and central Glasgow has been highlighted by Scotland’s Railways and Network Rail’s Scotland Route Utilisation Strategy. The conversion of parts of the Glasgow suburban rail network to light rail operations has been identified in Scotland’s Railways and the Scottish Planning Assessment.

Current status of project

A.255 There is currently no formal commitment to this intervention.

Possible costs

A.256 The scale of investment required to deliver one, or a combination, of the elements has been considered in the context of providing a package that effectively addresses the objectives. On this basis, the estimated cost is in the range of £1.5bn to £3bn, although some of this would extend beyond the STPR delivery period.

That’s a few complex paragraphs with different options and either/or factors.

One might be the remodelling of Glasgow Central by using existing platform extensions, extension of the station to the west to create further platforms and possibly getting to a situation where all platforms can handle at least 2 sets of 23m x 3 carriage units. With some longer for 7 x 23m or greater. 

The Network Rail Scotland Route Study that was out for consultation until March made suggestions along these lines. Bear in mind the need for HS2 platforms by the 2030’s too. More immediate is likelihood that the 20 metre class 314 stock will be retired by 2019, and class 385’s will replace them. Also coming soon is the use of electric stock on the Shotts line once it’s electrified.

Another idea might be re-routing services, a bang for buck project might be a low level terminus in the city centre with a northbound tunnel connecting to the E&G and a southern tunnel toward Govan, The QEUH and the Ayrshire/Inverclyde lines. 

This has been suggested on enthusiast forums and has seen much discussion. I’m lukewarm to it, it’s a London type project, big and bold and whilst certainly a ‘step change’, to my mind creates an ‘express’ line through Glasgow. 

I don’t think it would serve well as a mix of metro style and cross-Scotland services. 

Not all incoming passengers need the QEUH and although a mainline station would greatly help Govan, getting the routing onto Paisley and the Inverclyde and Ayrshire lines correct might be a challenge.

My inclination is to build on what we have, but in addition to the project on capacity is…

26 — Rail Enhancements between Inverclyde / Ayrshire and Glasgow

Intervention description

A.267 This intervention would provide four trains-per-hour each in both directions between Glasgow and Ayr, Glasgow and Kilmarnock and Glasgow and Gourock with each route served by two semi-fast services and two stopping services.

A.268 The Paisley Canal line would be reconnected to the Ayrshire line and four trains-per-hour between Glasgow and Johnstone. This would also provide an alternative route for passenger and freight services to and from Ayrshire. The intervention would also provide two trains-per-hour between Glasgow and Wemyss Bay. As well as additional rolling stock, this is likely to require the following infrastructure enhancements:

Signalling upgrades between Kilwinning and Paisley;

Reinstatement of the line from Elderslie to Paisley Canal, provision of double track and electrification on the existing Paisley Canal branch and increased track capacity between Paisley and Glasgow;

Provision of turnback facilities at Johnstone;

Extension to the Lugton loop and a new loop between Kilmaurs and Stewarton;

Additional platform capacity at Glasgow Central as described in Intervention 24 (West of Scotland Strategic Rail Enhancements);

Improvements to stations to enhance the environment for passengers and increase car park capacity (e.g. Prestwick, Ayr, Troon, Glengarnock, Kilwinning).

Contribution towards the Scottish Government’s Purpose

A.269 This intervention would provide a ‘step-change’ in rail service provision to the west and south west. This would result in a significant contribution to the objectives to increase rail capacity to Ayrshire and capacity and journey time to Inverclyde.

A.270 The feasibility of this intervention is dependent on being able to provide a solution to more platform capacity in central Glasgow to accommodate the services, as proposed in Intervention 24 (West of Scotland Strategic Rail Enhancements).

A.271 The improved services provide relief for the identified overcrowding issue on the south west electric services and give opportunity for modal shift from road to rail, particularly from Kilmarnock where the increased service frequency is high.

A.272 This intervention is expected to have a moderate positive environmental impact on air quality as a modal shift from road to rail is envisaged to reduce congestion leading to a contribution to improved air quality.

Links to other strategies

A.273 Improved services on this corridor have been highlighted in the relevant Regional Transport Strategies (RTS), the National Transport Strategy (NTS) (Scotland’s Railways) and in the Joint Transport Strategy for Western Scotland to 2025. The requirement for effective transport links to support the development and implementation of the proposed national development at Glasgow Airport (Strategic Airport Enhancements) is identified in the National Planning Framework (NPF2)

Current status of project

A.274 This intervention has not previously been made public. However, it is expected that the intervention would be generally supported by the public and other agencies.

Possible costs

A.275 The total cost (assuming that platform capacity is available at Glasgow Central) is estimated to be in the range of £250m-£500m.


A.276 The deliverability of the intervention is considered technically and operationally feasible. The intervention is highly dependent on being able to provide a solution to more platform capacity in central Glasgow to accommodate the services, e.g. through the conversion of the Cathcart Circle to Metro operation, through alternative proposals to divert services or to constructing additional capacity.

A.277 Doubling the track along the Kilmarnock to Barrhead line would cause some closures during construction. Along the route there is approximately 3km between Kilmaurs and Kilmarnock affected by mining. With no viable diversion route this is likely to increase pressure on the road network into Glasgow during these periods.

A.278 Some of the original trackbed between Paisley Canal Station and Elderslie has been sold and developed. This will make the process of returning the route to a twin-track railway more complex than it might otherwise have been. The extension of the Paisley Canal Line to Elderslie would provide an alternative route for Glasgow to Ayr passenger trains and freight traffic, including coal trains from Hunterston to Longannet. This could free up some capacity in the bottleneck area between Paisley and Shields. Providing additional capacity between Glasgow and Shields would be extremely challenging. Following construction, it is unlikely that any factors would adversely affect the operation of the increased service frequencies on railway services between Glasgow and Inverclyde during its projected life. However the doubling of the service frequency to Wemyss Bay over the single track branch line from Port Glasgow and the tight presentation times required at Paisley Gilmour Street would reduce journey time reliability and increase the impact from delays on other services.

– See more at:

This one seems more straightforward and understandable. 

Reconnect the Canal Line to the Ayrshire line as it was prior to the nineteen eighties closure of the Canal Line and allow more services to use it and relieve some pressures on Paisley Gilmour Street but strengthen frequencies per hour to Ayrshire destinations. 

We already have Ayr, Ardrossan (Town and Harbour) and Largs as terminal points. Irvine was temporarily used as a stopping point for all stops services in previous timetables and Kilwinning has the branch point between the two main sections of the route.

The Barrhead and Kilmarnock lines aren’t presently electrified and as part of the Glasgow South Western Line can ultimately connect to Carlisle as an alternative route to the WCML.

 Recent distruption due to winter storms saw the line used by Virgin Voyager stock with limited stops to connect to Carlisle. A point could be made that line should be electrified as a diversionary route, but that might be a large spend to solve a ‘sometimes’ problem, although relevance might be increased if the project to remodel the Carstairs junctions takes an impact on the WCML.

An interesting point I’ve seen recently is raising the possibility of using an old routing connecting Dalry to Kilmarnock. Benefits would be an alternative route to Kilmarnock, adding some connectivity, but pathing and capacity would be a possible issue though, without using a reconnected Paisley Canal Line. 

Electrification to Barrhead on the GSW has certainly  been mentioned, but would it be practical without other line and structures work to electrify to Kilmarnock on the GSW line?  East Kilbride seems a greater priority given the passenger loadings and has a mention in the Scotland Route Study, but if the project goes so far, Barrhead seems to make sense too. Both are ideal ‘Metro’ type locations.

But, The West of Scotland Network Capacity..

As I drew above, my solution has a ‘build upon’ answer.

Firstly, we have the issue of the Partick/Hyndland capacity issue that’s been discussed in a number of studies, both railway and planning, but is there an answer other than just a turn back on the Argyle line?

Next, the connection of Renfrew, Braehead, the QEUH and Govan.

Yup. My. answer is to extend the Argyle line after Exhibition Centre station beneath the Clyde at an Angle, then aim for Govan Cross and westwards. It’s not a crazy thought, in the context of projects like Crossrail in London. It’s would be a step change, a major project and it could provide a solution to two potential problems for the network.

But, thinking further ahead and hoping that the Glasgow Airport Access proposals could bring the tram train connection might be a different prospect, given the delays to the introduction of the Sheffield -Rotherham Tram Train Project, would and could going from Renfrew or Braehead to the Airport be a solution? 

A main line extension running Airport-Renfrew-Braehead-Govan-Exhibition Centre-Anderston-Glasgow Central Low Level would head off the numerous critics of the City Deal proposals. 

It would be visionary, it would fit with Metro aspirations. Connectivity at Govan Cross to the Glasgow Subway adds the North Clyde network at Partick.

The Argyle Line route network has destinations in East Glasgow and Lanarkshire covered as well as Motherwell’s connections to West Coast and Cross Country services.

(Being daring, the odd electrified Transpennine Express service could run as limited stop service on such a route too)

For me, the ideal situation would create the ability to run around from Paisley through an airport line onto Govan and through onto the Argyle Line routes using a Tram-Trains. This might be closer to a ‘Metro’ solution, but to be transformative for the whole city region, then other factors come into play.

Would adding into a Metro Network, the City Union Line (Glasgow Crossrail), the reuse of the Botanics tunnels, an electrified Northern Suburban Line and the necessary chords and links being put in place might be closer to the ambitions of the SPTR?

It certainly would fit ambitions for the Clyde Valley planning region too.

Tramification or Tram-Trainification (as I’ve advocated before) of certain lines like parts of the Cathcart Circle might yield more of the ‘Metro’ style network, mixing in things like looking at reopening to Bridge of Weir/Kilmacolm, and looking at the possibilities of going on road in places to unconnected destinations such as Newton Mearns or Castlemilk.

I assume committed electrification and enhancement schemes will be progressed by the new Scottish Government but the balance has shifted in the parliament and a lack of a majority might bring up schemes such as the Edinburgh Southern Suburban  or the Levenmouth Reopening as greater priorities and the Greater Glasgow area might have to wait in line, particularly if committed City Deal projects continue onwards. 

We have ongoing austerity and although transport improvements can create economic opportunities justifying a three billion spend in Scotland on transport projects wouldn’t be simple.


2 thoughts on “STPR Glasgow Terminals Capacity. Is extending the Argyle Line the answer?

  1. Pingback: Glasgow Terminals Capacity & SPTR | Chic Gibson – A blog of sorts

  2. Pingback: Glasgow Airport Access Project | Chic Gibson – A blog of sorts

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