Glasgow Airport Access Project.

Herald Article

Interesting piece has surfaced on the Glasgow Airport Access Project.

The thought being that the airport rail link will ‘do more harm than good’ with knock on effects to timing of trains described as full from Ayrshire and empty from the airport and that there’s no capacity at Glasgow Central and that there’s knock on harm to things like electrification to East Kilbride.

Here’s some quotes

“The latest scheme to build a multi-million-pound link to Glasgow Airport has hit the buffers after experts warned it would do more economic harm than good.

Local and national government officials last year threw their weight behind a £144m tram-train connection from Central Station to Abbotsinch.

Our sister title The Herald reports that the scheme was a cut-price alternative to the Glasgow Airport Rail Link or GARL axed by the Scottish Government nearly a decade ago amid grave concerns over its value for money.

However, now consultants hired to review the business case for the new link have queried both the proposed costs – and benefits – of the new scheme.

Experts from Jacobs stress the latest design of the link – which would see vehicles run along heavy rail to Paisley and then a new light spur to the airport – would clog up rail networks south of the city.

In a report prepared for the Scottish Government quango Transport Scotland, they suggest trains full of hundreds of commuters from Ayrshire and Inverclyde be would slowed by two and a half minutes to make away for trams carrying far fewer airport passengers.

That modest sounding delay, they added, was would cost the economy £4m a year alone.

Cuttingly, Jacobs experts note that the economic disadvantages of a slower, less reliable service from key commuter areas had not been examined by the council officials who came up with the current business case.

They concluded: “Such an increase may also result in economic dis-benefits to the Ayrshire and Inverclyde region. This issue has not been considered by the Project Team.”

The railway between Glasgow and Paisley was upgraded from two tracks to three – partly to provide for extra capacity for the old GARL scheme.

But a rise in popularity for train travel means all that additional capacity has been used up.

The tram train scheme – dubbed the Glasgow Airport Access Project or GAAP – would also put huge pressure on capacity at Central Station, said Jacobs.”

I think there’s a danger here in seeing a newspaper report without the source material and through the prism of a newspaper journalist.

I’d certainly want to see the whole frame of reference and the whole report.

Worth saying that both Transport Scotland and Network Rail are late to the party as neither were initially involved in the GAAP project and that issues identified by the city deal grouping and certainly readable in their reports was the previous lack of cooperation between the regional team and national organisations.

It has been notable that GAAP wasn’t included in TS or NR documents for Network Rail’s up coming Control Period for 2019 to 2024 CP6 and that an Airport Link wasn’t expressly an intervention in the Scottish Transport Projects Review previously undertaken by TS.

Obviously, both Transport Scotland and Network Rail would have been aware of the proposal and there may already have been shadow reports and thinking without official cooperation with the City Deal.

Certainly as a red-amber-green indicator in their regular reports, the City Deal teams noted the issue of cooperation with both TS and NR.

I’ve never seen anything official from either TS or NR mentioning the project as a factor in their thinking.

As political background, The City Deal for Glasgow came about from the UK Government and until the 2017 council elections, it’s leadership was Labour from the previous rule of administrations and the UK Government obviously is Tory.

The Airport Access Project was the ‘flagship’ infrastructure project for the City Deal and its cancellation would be a major change.

The council administrations have changed in many of the ‘Glasgow City Region’ authorities and after that change, the Transport Minister pledged better cooperation on the scheme .

In terms of some of the criticism in the article, the speed and type of vehicle necessary were known from outset as tram-train, vehicles used in the Rotherham/Sheffield scheme have 67mph top speeds. The maximum line speed between Paisley Gilmour Street and Glasgow Central is 75mph anyway, rail vehicles could be specified to run at whatever speed the purchaser wants.

In terms of speed, the vehicles wouldn’t clog up the rail network south of the river.

The next criticism is that platforms at Glasgow Central would get clogged up.

Since the Paisley Corridor Resignalling Project and introduction of class 380 electric multiple units, the upper platforms 11 to 15 have been used for all Ayrshire and Inverclyde line departures with the new platforms 12 and 13 adding capacity.

Operationally, Scotrail haven’t used two 4 car class 380 trains together and currently only use the longest combination of seven car (4 plus 3 car units) in the morning and evening peaks.

A four car unit is used most of day for services to Ayr with 3 car units to Largs, Ardrossan and Inverclyde.

The class 380 units were 23 metre units and it was realised after introduction that a single four car unit provided much the same capacity as a six car 20 metre long pair of class 334 units.

I think capacity at Glasgow Central is a known issue to both TS and NR and both have previously mentioned such in official reports for future investment or intervention

Another point is the flighting of services, a 1800 Ayr limited stop (bypassing Paisley) precedes an 1804 Ayr all stops (bypassing stations between Glasgow and Paisley) and an 1806 Gourock stopping at Cardonald and Hillington on the way.

This shows that operationally, the most can be made of signalling and platform resources in creating services and that any Airport link wouldn’t necessarily interfere with Ayrshire services.

The journalist’s attempt to show small tram trains delaying Ayrshire thundering expresses is poorly made when looked at in reality and both, TS and NR, were well aware of the Airport Access scheme, it’s proposed vehicles, frequency and the interdependencies with current service provision.

Many already known factors have been flagged up there and the question to be asked is how much of this article states the patently obvious?

“Small tram train would take up as many platform slots as long commuter trains, they said. Projects jeopardised by GAAP would include plans to electrify services to and from East Kilbride.”

“Jacobs estimates that many passengers – such as those going to Queen street station – would still be faster on the existing bus service than on GAAP. And, like successive experts before them, they stress that a simple A to B journey from Central Station to Abbotsinch would not take many people off roads. Most passengers, after all, are not going from the city centre to the airport. The GAAP link, moreover, would not get anyone to the airport in time for many early flights”

“The new link was to have been funded by the City Deal, a roughly £1bn pot for investment from the UK and Scottish Governments.”

“The City Region cabinet – the panel of council leaders hoping to spend that cash – now look set to go back to the drawing board on the rail link.”

“In terms of the remaining quotes, again known factors, only street Running by the tram trains in Glasgow City Centre could serve Glasgow Queen Street. The points on the existing airport bus link and that passengers don’t always need to go to Glasgow city centre to get to airport have already been addressed over the life of the GAAP Project.”

My questions are why was the Jacobs report leaked to the newspaper and for what purpose?

Are TS looking to get the scheme ditched after their initial lack of any cooperation and how political is the thinking?

Are the SNP seriously going to ditch a second scheme to link Paisley and Glasgow Airport to Glasgow City Centre?

Is this merely troublemaking for sake of it?

A lot of the known issues and criticism of the scheme have been out there for years. The campaign groups like Railfuture have links to alternative fully heavy rail proposals such as the often quoted but never shown online Rail Qwest schemes for son of GARL. There is a commentariat that dislike the proposal as ‘it’s not big trains’ and it’s not ‘Glasgow Crossrail’

So, let’s get the GAAP scheme done and if there’s a better bigger proposal out there, then do it next.

I’ve blogged before on the potential of a tunnel from Finnieston to Govan and the potential to reroute Argyle Line Services along the South Bank of The Clyde picking up Govan, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the Braehead Development, the Renfrew Riverside regeneration area and towards Glasgow Airport.

Yes, that could play a huge benefit in Public Transport terms, but it would be a billion pound intervention and there are schemes in pipelines and that have been scoped and costed already.

Can we have the debate?

Can we see SPT’s modern tram scheme for Glasgow?

Can we see the ClydeMetro proposals in detail?

Can we see the SPTR proposals for capacity at Glasgow Central?

Let’s have an open frank debate on the future schemes necessary.

TfL can do it on their websites, are Scots less capable of reading than Londoners?

Links below show my precious thinking on Glasgow Central capacity and the STPR reports.


2 thoughts on “Glasgow Airport Access Project.

  1. Many serious and workable suggestions here. I can’t understand why TS and NR so narrow minded about potential options. The suggestions here appear to be very sensible

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