January – Peter Lind awarded the advance bridgework contract (passing over the Paisley-Gourock rail line) for the St. James Park-Linwood Link Road. This was a separate contract to the Renfrew Bypass & Linclive Link due to the upgrading of the line for electrification at the time. The main office facilities were used as a base with just a site cabin/canteen etc. on site. Piling for this bridge was started.
25th February – A high pressure water main burst near to Bridge 7 (A8 Renfrew Road), causing existing carriageway to collapse. Water flooded onto construction works under the new Bridge 7 and surrounding area. Existing A8 closed to all traffic for the weekend. No blame was attributed to Peter Lind or the bypass works.
1st/2nd April – Concrete beams placed over the Paisley-Gourock railway bridge for the Linwood link road. By June the bridge was completed to allow testing of the electric trains on the route.
July – The Moss Side Inn on Greenock Road (end of Stage 1) was demolished as part of the contract.
August – The steel beams were placed on the 2nd half of Bridge 5 and the remaining deck cast. In mid August Peter Lind & Co.Ltd were awarded the contract to build the St. James Park-Linwood Link Road (also known as the Linclive Link Road). Initial work began in September 1967. This tied into Marples Ridgway contract for the St. James junction of the Renfrew Bypass (Barrie was no longer involved with this scheme having moved on to the Glasgow Airport runway extension scheme).
18th March – Renfrew Bypass officially opened to traffic.
Completed in March 1968, the 6.5 mile long Renfrew Bypass was the first section of M8 to open in the Glasgow area. The route stretches from Hillington (J26) to Bishopton (J29A). It forms a bypass of Paisley and Renfrew and provides a vital connection to Glasgow Airport.
Major features of the route include the White Cart Viaduct, near Glasgow Airport, and the twin viaducts of the St James Interchange constructed in the early 1990s. This section of the motorway is also well known for having been constructed along a length of the former Renfrew Airport runway.
LOCATION: M8 Junctions 26-30
OPENING DATE: 18th March 1968
DESIGNER: Crouch & Hogg
CONTRACTOR: Marples Ridgeway/Peter Lind & Co
LENGTH: 6.5 miles
TOTAL SCHEME COST: £5 million (£82.5 million in 2017)
The eastern terminus of the Renfrew Bypass was the A8 trunk road at Hillington. It remained disconnected from the M8 Glasgow Inner Ring Road for over 8 years until the Renfrew Motorway was completed in Autumn 1976. In the west the route terminated on the A8 at Bishopton. This remained the case until Bishopton Bypass (Stage 1) was completed in late 1970. This also provided access to the M898 and the Erskine Bridge.
Bishopton Bypass (Stage 2) was completed in 1975 and extended the M8 to West Ferry (J31) – its present day terminus. The temporary terminus at Southbar (to the east of the modern day J30), was closed soon after though an exact date remains unclear.
The straight section of motorway that runs between Hillington (J26) and Arkleston (J27) was originally the runway of Renfrew Airport. The airport (which started its life as a military airfield) closed on 2nd May 1966. It was replaced by Glasgow Airport, which was constructed to the west at Abbotsinch. This was necessary to cater for increased demand for air travel in Scotland. The new airport was built with a connection to the motorway in mind.
This section of the motorway has seen several minor alterations, specifically the provision of an extended westbound slip road from J26 at Hillington. This was added to allow traffic to merge safely with motorway traffic. This section has three lanes and a hard shoulder in each direction with a 70mph speed limit.
Extensive signage is provided with a mix of typical Glasgow Gantries (added in 1994), a portal frame variable message sign (VMS) on the eastbound side (there are only 3 of this type in Scotland), as well as traditional verge signing.
A pedestrian footbridge crosses the motorway mid-way along, connecting Renfrew to Arkleston Cemetery and Hillington Industrial Estate. The footbridge, which was prone to bridge strikes, was replaced with a new single span steel structure in 2015.
The Renfrew Bypass was not developed as part of “A Highway Plan for Glasgow”. Like the plans for the M8 Harthill Bypass and its adjacent sections, the route of the motorway was developed as part of a study led by the Scottish Development Department/Renfrew County Council. It was first detailed in a 1963 Scottish Office white paper entitled "Central Scotland - A Programme for Development & Growth".
Earlier investigations for a bypass of Renfrew were concerned with a route to the north of the burgh due to restrictions created by Renfrew Airport and Hillington Industrial Estate. The decision to close Renfrew Airport and transfer the airfield to Abbotsinch solved this problem but the need for a good quality connection to Glasgow remained. The new airport opened in May 1966.
Two factors had a bearing on route selection and the profile of the new road. Firstly, the requirements of flight clearances and possible future runway extensions at Glasgow Airport dictated the limits of the land available. Secondly, the existence of Paisley Harbour and a ship building yard on White Cart Water dictated a need for a high level structure which would allow ships to reach Paisley and provide sufficient clearance for newly launched craft to pass beneath. Within months of the start of construction, the Paisley Harbour went into administration and never reopened. It is almost certainly the case that no large vessels have ever sailed under the White Cart Viaduct as a result!
Original plans for the route had the section of bypass west of St James Interchange as an all-purpose dual carriageway. The motorway was to have continued to the south west (via a large flyover) towards Linwood. These plans were changed during the construction phase, and the proposed all-purpose section was built to motorway standard. Revised Roads Orders allowing for this change were published and construction proceeded with the addition of hard shoulders. The Linclive Link Road and Linwood Bypass were downgraded to standard dual carriageway.
The reasons for this late reconfiguration are not entirely clear, however, lobbying from local politicians, such as (Sir) Dr James MacFarlane, for a motorway to Port Glasgow was probably a contributing factor.
Construction commenced in early 1965 and involved a remarkably small disturbance to property and severance of land. Demolition of properties was confined to an inn, three prefabricated houses, two small farm steadings and a temporary fire station - more on this below!
In early 2016 we were contacted by Mr Barrie Old, a retired civil engineer who worked on the M8 Renfrew Bypass, Linclive Link Road Bridge (now A737) and the Erskine Bridge North Approach (A82/A898) contracts. Mr Old was employed by Peter Lind & Co, an English contractor (Offices in London and Cannock), who won a number of contracts in the Renfrewshire area during the late 1960’s – the most high profile of which was the Renfrew Bypass. He studied at Paisley College of Technology and now lives in The Wirral.
Barrie was originally from Wigan in Lancashire and moved to Scotland in the autumn of 1965, just as work on the contract began (he started on 15th November 1965). The contract involved all aspects of the bypass, except the White Cart Viaduct which was procured separately. He spent over two years on the scheme before moving to a project at Glasgow Airport.
During a long telephone conversation, Barrie provided us with some fascinating facts about the scheme. He also supplied us with copies of the many photos he took on this and other projects. You can see a selection of these below. He also sent us a list of key dates for the project which he had noted in his diary at the time. These provide us with a detailed timeline for the project for the first time.
Initially no junction numbers were assigned to the Renfrew Bypass. Later, as adjoining sections of trunk motorway were completed, a numbering system was rolled out which stopped at J6 (Newhouse, Lanarkshire) and restarted at Hillington Interchange as Junction 7. Eventually the non-trunk stretch of M8, which included the Monkland Motorway, Inner Ring Road and Renfrew Motorway was included and a further renumbering took place.
Hillington Interchange J26 (Originally J7)
The present day J26 at Hillington is a roundabout type interchange with full access slip roads; it marks the boundary between the Renfrew Bypass and the Renfrew Motorway. Before the Renfrew Motorway opened in October 1976, it acted as route terminus. The configuration of this terminus had the motorway continue north eastwards to connect with the A8 Renfrew Road at an at-grade junction.
Renfrew Road J27 (J8)
At Renfrew Road the motorway has a tight folded-diamond type design with a single overbridge. The reason for this design on a strategic local road (the A741) is due to space constraints. Not only is this on the eastern approach to the White Cart Viaduct, it is also closely flanked by housing on each side of the carriageway. The motorway, although three lanes wide, lacks hard shoulders and the slip roads on this junction are particularly short. In recent years this junction has seen the addition of two roundabouts on Renfrew Road, arranging it into a folded dumbbell hybrid type design.
Glasgow Airport J28 (J9)
Lying immediately to the west of the White Cart Viaduct is Junction 28 Glasgow Airport. When the bypass opened this junction was a “trumpet” type design, with an underpass leading to a roundabout on the north side of the motorway, with east and west facing slip roads. Not only was it full access, it allowed for almost free flow for the large amounts of traffic generated by Glasgow Airport. Later the junction was further modified to include a southern roundabout which allowed access to the Shortroods district of Paisley and its surrounding industrial units. Its final modification came in 1993 when the St. James Interchange improvements opened to traffic, and eastbound access from the M8 to the northern roundabout was removed entirely. The remains of this old slip road can still be seen on the ground today.
St. James East J28A (Not part of original layout)
Junction 28A is a relatively modern addition to the Renfrew Bypass and opened on the 17th August 1993. It features east facing only high level slip roads that provide grade separated traffic to flow from the M8 to the A737. It has its own page which you can view HERE.
St. James Interchange J29 (J10)
The St. James Interchange (J29) consists of an elevated roundabout with a direct dual carriageway link into Paisley (the A726), the A737 and a link to Barnsford Road for traffic from Inchinnan and Houston. It has full access to the motorway. Its configuration has changed over the years to include collector distributor roads between it and J28 for the airport and a realignment of the A737 link when J28A and the high level slip roads opened in 1993. You can read more about this junction and its history HERE.
Southbar Terminus (Closed & Re-opening in 2020 as J29A)
Southbar was the last junction on the Renfrew Bypass and served as a temporary terminus before the Bishopton Bypass Stage 1 was completed in 1970. This was a simple T junction for the first two years where the two Renfrew Bypass carriageways flared out to at-grade intersections on the A8. When the M8 was extended in 1970 to meet the M898 and Erskine Bridge South Approach roads, this junction was retained and its slip roads modified to provide a local access. This included a loop from the A8 eastbound to M8 eastbound and a slip road from the M8 westbound to the A8 westbound. The remnants of this can still be seen on the ground today. This survived until Bishopton Bypass Stage II was opened in 1975. It was closed shortly after, to the annoyance of Bishopton residents who had lost direct access to the motorway. This junction is due to re-open in 2020 as a half dumbbell to coincide with redevelopment of the site of the former Royal Ordnance Factory.
6th January – Pipe jacking on 36” diameter outfall commenced from White Cart Water under the railway line. Barrie recalls there was one train a day (a workman’s which ran from Paisley to Renfrew before 8am)
During the year (from April 1966) the standard working week was a 6½ day week. (Saturday morning only because of the football matches!)
2nd May – Glasgow Airport was opened for business with Renfrew Airport closing. Access onto the old airfield was not granted until later that week due to operational conditions set by the authorities.
W/C 9th May – Piling works started for Bridge 4 (Arkleston Road) within the old airport boundary.
Late May – Excavation of the old runway surface using Cat 631’s and D9 ripper.
Mid July – Bridge 6 deck concreted.
Mid August – Scaffold etc. removed from Bridge 6 main deck. A trial of a new type of storm water pipeline was carried out to the west of Bridge 5. This was a 6” diameter inflatable 'duct-tube' (sausage) that was laid on a prepared concrete bed, inflated, and with temporary formwork templates positioned over it, encased in vibrated concrete. It was trialled over a 200ft section between Manholes 140 & 144 and was laid in approx. 55ft sections. It was decided after the trial it was not suitable for use and so conventional pipes continued to be used.
August & September – Rock blasting for Bridge 5 foundations, drainage and reduced level for carriageways.
9th & 10th November – Steel beams for ½ of Bridge 5 (Renfrew Road) delivered and placed in position.
29th November – Bridge 5 deck (north side) concreted.
December – Steel deck beams placed in position on Bridge 4 (for Arkleston Road diversion)
31st December – North side of Renfrew Road over Bridge 5 opened to traffic towards Renfrew whereas Paisley bound traffic still used temporary diversion.
Early September – Contracted Awarded
15th October – Contract start date
November – Thrust pit for the main outfall drainage constructed (this takes surface water runoff into the White Cart Water via a 36” diameter pipe, adjacent to the proposed viaduct). Due to the single British Railways line feeding Renfrew that ran on the east bank of the White Cart, the first stretch of pipe had to be thrust bored under the line. Note: The remnants of this rail line can be seen behind B&Q between the boundary of the Scottish Water sewage treatment works and the abattoir. It is now used as a walkway.
30th November – Demolition of the fire station practice tower structure carried out.
December – Works commence around the proposed Hillington Interchange junction. (Bridges 2 & 3 now J26)
13th December – D8 & scraper box commenced the first earth moving operation between Renfrew Road (Bridge 5) and White Cart Viaduct section.
Piling works for Bridge 6 (Glasgow Airport Junction) commenced during the month.
The weather between November & Christmas had severe frosts and snow, coupled with high winds and heavy rain at times.
Peter Lind & Co Ltd were awarded the contract in early September 1965 (their first contract in Scotland). The actual contract start date was 15th October 1965. The project site offices were located on the site of the old Renfrew Fire Station at Renfrew Road (near the abattoir) which was to be demolished as part of the works.
An area of land adjacent to the junction of Arkleston Road and Paisley Road (J27) was developed as the main site offices, with a soils lab, for the Consulting Engineers Crouch and Hogg. Peter Lind staff also moved to this location as the contract progressed.
The contract was split into two stages, the second of which was awarded to Marples Ridgeway. The western limit of Stage 1 was Greenock Road adjacent to the Moss Side Inn which was demolished as part of the works.
As part of our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Renfrew Bypass in March 2018, we asked Barrie if he would put some words together offering some insight on the project, particularly his memories and thoughts on how the road has changed through the decades. We are delighted to present it here as a downloadable PDF document for you to enjoy.
Click the button opposite to view!
Completed in two stages between 1970 & 1975, the Bishopton Bypass continues the motorway towards Inverclyde.
Index page for the M8 with links to contract pages, construction information and a route overview.
Completed in autumn 1976, the Renfrew Motorway links the Inner Ring Road with Renfrewshire.
The West Flank of the IRR includes the Kingston Bridge, its approaches and the controversial Charing Cross section.