Unlike in the neighbouring authorities the politicians of Renfrewshire were much less enthusiastic about the construction of new motorways. The Clyde Valley Report had recommended a bypass south of Renfrew which would serve the relocated Glasgow Airport at Abbotsinch and improve connections with Inverclyde.
With the relocation of the main shipping ports away from central Glasgow, and the commitment to build a new crossing at Erskine, the Scottish Development Department was keen to see the proposals progressed. The County had already committed to plans for the upgrade of routes such as the A726 around the south of Paisley but minutes from meetings of the Highway Committee throughout 1961/62 reveal that many elected members were unwilling to commit budget for much more. It is clear that the County Surveyor was much more enthusiastic.
Eventually Crouch & Hogg Consulting Engineers were appointed to carry out a detailed study into the line of a Renfrew Bypass although it remains unclear whether they were appoined directly by the SDD or the County.
The County remained less than enthusiastic throughout the 1960s with plans for ring road of Paisley town centre also taking a considerable of number of years to be progressed.
The history of Glasgow’s network of motorways and dual carriageways can be traced back to at least the 1940s. The publication of the First Planning Report and the Clyde Valley Plan immediately after the war put in place the foundations for a network, most of which, was designed and constructed during the 1960s and 70s. The story doesn’t end there! Many other interesting schemes have been constructed in the last forty years and there are likely to be more in the future.
In this section, we provide some background to the planning of the Glasgow motorway system and it considers those schemes promoted by both local authorities and central government. Each of the major reports and studies are given their own pages and are indexed below. There is also an article covering the development of the Glasgow Inner Ring Road. For those interested in quick referencing we have produced a Glasgow Motorway Timeline as well as a page on myth busting Glasgow motorway facts and figures.
The City of Glasgow had experienced traffic congestion for decades. The city lacked any substantial radial or arterial routes that could be used to redirect traffic away from the city centre - indeed, the five major routes from Glasgow to other parts of the country (the A74, A77, A8, A80 and A82) all converged in the vicinity of the central area. The severity of the city’s problems meant that its planners had been considering solutions for many years and these were first outlined in “The Bruce Report” of March 1945 by Glasgow Corporation Engineer Robert Bruce. Bruce’s recommendations were largely rejected, although his highways proposals were accepted by the Corporation. The main recommendation of the proposed highway system was the construction of a Ring Road around the city centre with a series of radial routes connecting at each corner. These would route traffic away from the central area.
Corporation plans for "urban renewal through comprehensive redevelopment" were outlined in the 1960 quinquennial development plan and offered an opportunity to construct the new roads as part of these schemes. When the Comprehensive Development Areas (CDAs) were finalised, the Ring Road proposals, almost identical to those proposed in 1945, were included.
In early 1960, the Corporation appointed Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners (SWK) to proceed immediately with design work that would allow construction of the Inner Ring Road to proceed. Detailed plans were presented to the Corporation in late 1962 in the "Interim Report on Plans for an Inner Ring Road". The findings & recommendations were based on detailed traffic studies which were undertaken throughout 1961. In 1963 the Scottish Office published a paper ("Central Scotland - A Programme for Development & Growth") which put improvements to roads at the heart of economic planning.
Construction began in 1965 shortly after the publication of a "A Highway Plan for Glasgow". This plan contained proposals for further motorways within the City Boundary and connections with those being planned elsewhere. It was intended that by completing a full scale study the congestion issue could be resolved once and for all.
Thomas Telfords' A74 had acted as the primary route from central Scotland to England for over a century. From the early 1950s significant works were carried out to improve the rural section between Lesmahagow and the Scottish Border, and by 1960 the majority of the works to provide a dual carriageway were complete. The vast majority of the urban stretch which cut through the centres of Larkhall, Hamilton, Bothwell and Uddingston remained as a single carriageway of varying widths, and was completely inadequate for the volume and type of traffic using it.
A bypass of these towns had been considered since at least the early 1950s with the MoT publishing orders several times detailing a new special road through the Clyde Valley. As is often the case in British roads planning there was a delay. County Surveyor Col TU Wilson completed a full review of the county's roads in 1951, expanding on those outlined in the Clyde Valley Plan. Planning took a considerable step forward in 1960 when Lanarkshire County Council, with support from the Scottish Development Department (SDD), commissioned a full-scale traffic survey centred on the Hamilton area. Its purpose: to identify possible solutions to the ever-worsening congestion problem. It was found that around 20,000 vehicles per day were travelling through Hamilton and this was expected to increase to around 65,000 by 1980. The construction of a "Special Road" was therefore recommended on a line through the Clyde Valley to the north of all four towns. This route would be made up of two and three lane carriageways built to rural motorway standards and tie in with the dual carriageway sections of A74 at Calderpark in the north and Draffan in the south. An additional road from Maryville to Mollinsburn was recommended to link the new "Motorway 74" with the A8 and A80 as a way of diverting traffic away from other congested County roads such as the A73. Shortly after the traffic survey was completed, Babtie Shaw and Morton were appointed as the project designers and construction got underway in 1963. The SDD provided a 75% grant towards the project.
Elsewhere in Lanarkshire improvements were proposed to the A8 Glasgow-Edinburgh Road. A section between Baillieston and Newhouse was upgraded to full dual carriageway in the early sixties however several three-lane single carriageway stretches remained. The road had a horrendous safety record at these locations particularly in the Harthill and Salsburgh areas due to the shared overtaking lane. An upgrade to motorway was accepted by the Scottish Development Department and outlined in the 1963 White Paper - "Central Scotland - A Programme for Development & Growth".
Construction on the first section, the Harthill Bypass, was started in late summer 1963 and opened to traffic in November 1965. Lanark County Council acted as Engineer for the works on the first contract to be built entirely within their boundary (the West of Harthill to Newhouse section) which was essentially an on-line upgrade of the 1930s built Kirk O'Shotts Bypass. Construction began in May 1965 and the road opened in September 1967.
Several large studies focussed on the principal road network of the Greater Glasgow conurbation have been undertaken since the 1940s, the most recent of which reported in 2003. The studies, all commissioned by the Scottish Development Department, often included a consideration of planning and housing issues.
The first major study, the Clyde Valley Regional Plan, was completed in 1949 and produced by renowned transport planner Sir Patrick Abercrombie. The plan sought to create a planning framework for the Clyde Valley and Glasgow areas and made recommendations on transport, housing, education and public amenities amongst others.
The proposed road system included an array of motorway and dual carriageway proposals, including an upgrade of the A8 and A74 and a crossing of the River Clyde at Erskine. The Bruce Report proposals of 1945 were adopted for the Glasgow Corporation area and includes a motorway on the route of the disused Monkland Canal. The report is the first to recommend the provision of service areas on major long distance routes, including on the upgraded A74 at Abington. It is unclear if any specific roads proposals from this report were implemented as most were developed further in subsequent studies.
In 1964 the team behind “A Highway Plan for Glasgow”, in conjunction with Tippetts, Abbett, McCarthy Stratton of New York, were commissioned to produce a Greater Glasgow Transportation Study (GGTS). The first report was issued in 1967 and the plans were updated continuously until regionalisation in 1975 by a steering committee. The two-volume report considered all forms of transportation and made extensive highway proposals for the Glasgow area, including motorways from Paisley to Cumbernauld and several expressways. Within the Glasgow city area, the highway plan proposals were adopted in full. Development of the proposals proceeded for some years, although some controversial roads such as the motorway around the south of Paisley and the Kelvindale Expressway were early casualties.
The report created three “systems” of highway proposals which were intended to be built up to the year 2000 in response to increasing traffic flows. Shortly after its publication population figures for the Glasgow area were revised down sharply rendering the justification for some of proposals obsolete. There was also criticism of the survey methods utilised for car journeys and some local authorities were unhappy with what the perceived to be a lack of communication with the study team.
The West Central Scotland report of the early 1970s mostly adopted the proposals of the system 1 highway network from the GGTS.
Following the reorganisation of local government Strathclyde Regional Council undertook a review of all proposed highway schemes within its area. The main reasons behind this were on-going protests against the proposed East Flank of the Glasgow Inner Ring Road, Maryhill Motorway and a general reduction in central government funding of such schemes. Entitled the “Strathclyde Region Structure Plan" (SPRAG) the plan, when published in January 1982, was the first to promote a motorway in the corridor eventually adopted by the M74 to the north of Maryville.
In the year 2000 a new study, the “Central Scotland Corridor Study” (CSCS) was commissioned to consider the need for motorway upgrades to the A80 from Stepps to Haggs, the A8 from Baillieston to Newhouse and other changes required in response to the completion of the M74. The report was published in 2003 and recommended partial offline upgrades for the A80 and A8.
The Bruce Report is the name commonly given to the First Planning Report to the Highways and Planning Committee of the Corporation of the City of Glasgow published in March 1945.
It influenced an intensive programme of regeneration and rebuilding efforts in the city. The author was Robert Bruce, Glasgow Corporation Engineer.
"A Highway Plan for Glasgow" was published in 1965 by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners on behalf of the Corporation of the City of Glasgow.
Coming in at over 200 pages and accompanied by fold out maps, illustrations and diagrams, the report formed the basis of plans for routes such as the M8 and M77. An Interim Report covering the Inner Ring Road was published in 1962.
Produced by Lanark County Surveyor Colonel T.U. Wilson this report considers the past and future of the Lanarkshire road network. It includes proposals for what became the M73 and M74 motorways.
The report expands upon the plans outlined in the Clyde Valley Report and considers both trunk and non-trunk routes. It was followed by a traffic study centred on Hamilton in 1960.
In 1949 the Scottish Home Department published the Clyde Valley Regional Plan. This was authored by a team led by renowned planner Sir Patrick Abercrombie and Robert H Matthew.
The report recommended the rehousing of much of the population in new towns outside the city. The report was the first to recommend an upgrading of the A74 and A8 trunk routes.
Commissioned by the Scottish Development Department and local authorities, the GGTS sought to provide a plan for the Glasgow conurbation.
Published in four volumes up to 1973 the report recommended new routes outwith the Glasgow City boundary. It was led by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Tippetts Abbett McCarthy Stratton of New York.
Commissioned by Strathclyde Regional Council following the cancelletation of the East Flank of the Inner Ring Road, the SPRAG study considered a number alternative corridors.
The study recommended a number of new routes including a South Tangent and options for the Hamilton Road Route (M74).
The comprehensive roads report for Glasgow Corporation which was published in 1965.
Timeline of key events & milestones in the development and construction of the Glasgow motorway system.
There are a number of myths about the Glasgow motorway system. On this page we get to the facts.