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Rail link to Glasgow Airport to be operational by 2025

Airport staff in terminal

A rail link between Glasgow city centre and Glasgow Airport has taken a major step forward, it was announced today.

A scheme to build a tram-train link is one of two options being put forward for a new connection between Glasgow city centre, Paisley and Glasgow Airport as the flagship project in the £1.13bn Glasgow and Clyde Valley City Deal.

Tram-train carriages would operate on the heavy rail network between Glasgow Central Station and Paisley Gilmour Street before moving on to new tram rails running between Paisley and the front of the airport terminal building. This would offer a 16.5-minute direct journey between the city centre and the front door of the airport.

A light rail personal rapid transit system is also being considered. In this scheme, passengers would travel by standard train to Paisley before disembarking and changing onto a new light-rail system to complete their journey to the airport.

Studies have shown that tram-train would be the best performing option, offering the best value for money, due to its greater attraction for users. This would result in more people using the service and better journey times for people travelling to and from the airport. It would come in at less than half the cost of a new heavy rail solution, which would cost an estimated £317m and is being ruled out as being too expensive.

The tram-train and personal rapid transit schemes are contained in a strategic business case which has been developed jointly by Renfrewshire Council and Glasgow City Council and is announced today. It will be put before councillors in both authorities before going to the Glasgow and Clyde Valley Cabinet for approval.

If approved, further work would be done to develop more detail on both of these options before a final, preferred choice is made next year.

It comes just weeks after Glasgow announced it had emerged as one of the strongest performing airports in Europe. 

Councillor Mark Macmillan, Leader of Renfrewshire Council, said: “This new connection will contribute a great deal to the success of the City Region; supporting the airport’s continuing success and generating jobs throughout the area.  City Deal has also committed £51million to the Glasgow Airport Investment Area where further infrastructure developments will create a business location offering unparalleled air, sea and land connectivity. The airport and Renfrewshire will be fully integrated into the Region’s transport network and play a pivotal role in its thriving economic future.”

Councillor Frank McAveety, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “Glasgow and the Clyde Valley is the economic powerhouse of Scotland and Glasgow Airport plays a crucial role in the continued growth of the region.

“We’ve long argued that a new rail link between the airport and the city centre is essential for the thousands of tourists and business travellers who fly into and out of Glasgow every day.

“The airport already supports thousands of jobs but this new rail link, which is the single biggest element of our City Deal, will be the catalyst that takes us to a new level, vastly improving the customer experience and generating even more jobs and inward investment.”

Amanda McMillan, managing director of Glasgow Airport said: "This flagship project presents an exciting opportunity to deliver real benefits to the city region and beyond. We welcome all the positive steps that are being taken to progress this important project and will continue to work closely with colleagues at Renfrewshire Council, Glasgow City Council, Transport Scotland and Network Rail through to successful delivery and operation.

"Improving transport links to Glasgow Airport is a top priority for us, particularly at a time when we are enjoying sustained passenger growth.  Over the past 12 months alone we have welcomed an additional one million passengers through our doors, so it is important that improved transport links can be achieved as soon as possible."

The estimated cost of a tram-train link is £144.3m, which includes construction, rolling stock, inflation, contingency and land purchase. Construction could start in 2021 and it could be operational by 2025.

The personal rapid transit option would cost £102m and would involve a mix of the existing heavy rail network and a new light railway connecting from heavy rail at Paisley to the airport utilising a bespoke system similar to that used at other airports.

The strategic business case will be put to councillors for approval on the following dates:

  •      2 December: Renfrewshire Council Leadership Board
  •      10 December: Glasgow City Council’s Executive Committee
  •      15 December: Glasgow and Clyde Valley Cabinet
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