Opposition politicians have described the decision to scrap plans for a long-mooted rail link between Glasgow city centre and the airport as a “betrayal” to the people of Glasgow.
Instead, it is understood that a shuttle pod system, otherwise known as a Personal Rapid Transit system is favoured ahead of the tram-train proposal which would see a connection between the airport and Paisley Gilmour Street.
The decision comes after discussions were held last week between airport bosses, the leaders of Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils and the transport secretary Michael Matheson.
Initially proposed in 2014, the construction of the network would see Glasgow Central Station connected to the airport for the first time as part of a £1.13bn Glasgow City Region deal.
It was hoped that the railway would start construction by 2022 and be operating by 2025 but plans have never got off the ground due to capacity concerns.
Council leaders are not impressed or convinced by the proposal moving forward with work now needing to begin on a new business case for the PRT system. Bob Grant, chief executive of Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce, believes the extra time will inevitably result in further delays and lead to more traffic on the M8.
“We question the decision once again to delay taking action to address the transport challenges facing the City Region and surface access to Glasgow Airport,” he said. “The planned rail-link in its current form has been through extensive assessment including 2 STAG reports and 80 design iterations. The funding exists and the economic case is clear, strongly backed by the business community - yet worryingly other options are now being explored.”
While Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said the decision was “extremely disappointing” and does not believe a PRT system sufficiently tackles the connectivity issues faced by Glasgow Airport.
“This is now the fourth review of a project that has been in development for over 12 years and we don’t,” he added. “Asking passengers carrying luggage to take multiple modes of transport to reach Glasgow’s city centre makes us question the level of likely customer demand, which in turn means we have to question how much of an impact this would actually have on traffic volumes on the badly congested M8 to the Airport.
Calls for the rail link have been mounting as research continues to show the need for the infrastructure to be put in place. A report published in September showed 16,000 more vehicles a day were using the stretch of motorway between the Glasgow city centre and the airport.
Labour MP and former chairman of the City Region Cabinet, Frank McAveety, has reacted angrily and called on the Scottish government to stop “dragging their feet” over construction of the rail network.
“This is the second time that Glasgow has had its rail link project axed by the SNP,” he said. “Glasgow is one of few cities of its size that does not have a dedicated rail link to its airport. This is a betrayal for the city. The Glasgow Airport Rail Link project has undergone review after review.”
Responding, transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “It’s crucial that improving access to Glasgow Airport is balanced with the needs of the region’s existing transport network. The Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system option potentially meets this aim, and I look forward to seeing the revised business case once it’s completed.”