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The Glasgow Airport Rail Link is axed after months of speculation

September 23, 2009
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo

The Scottish Government has just announced their new budget which has seen some major cutbacks due to the recession. One of the biggest transport infrastructure projects in Scotland, the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) has been axed after months of speculation. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the decision as the rail link was one of the main selling points in Glasgow’s successful bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Since I took a keen interest in my home city’s bid for the Games I thought it very appropriate to discuss this topic on our blog.  


The critical reason for dropping the airport link was budget constraint, due to the fact that the cost of the project had escalated so much from the original proposal. The cost of the project was initially estimated at around £115 million but it constantly increased and was going to end up at nearer £400 million.  


The 15 km railway line would have run from Glasgow Central Station, making one stop at Paisley and then direct to Glasgow Airport. It would have seen 4 trains run every hour between the Glasgow city centre and the airport. It would have been a perfect solution for the many athletes arriving at Glasgow Airport giving them a mode of transport in which the whole team could easily travel together to their hotel in the city centre. The tourists and spectators arriving for the games would also have also been able to take advantage of the service. However the benefits of the rail link would have gone beyond the games and was estimated to deliver £3.14 million per annum in tourism and leisure.


Recently the Edinburgh airport rail link project was also dropped meaning Scotland is falling behind the rest of Europe on future transport developments. It will not have rail links to its two biggest airports which could have an affect on the economic growth of the cities they serve. The loss of the project also means the loss of nearly 130 000 much needed jobs which would have been created. However, the Scottish Government is backing an alternative solution, a bus rapid transit system, named ‘FastLink’ but the planed route will not connect Glasgow city with the airport. The proposed route will provide a link to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC).  


Some politicians are stating that both the Glasgow and Edinburgh Rail link were critical to the infrastructure of the Commonwealth Games but the Games organising committee are not surprisingly responding by saying that they won’t be vital to the success of the Games. Even if the project had been allowed to carry on it is unlikely that’s it would have been finished on time. It was supposed to be completed in 2 stages before 2014 but was already running 2 years behind schedule.

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Reinventing rail in europe:
the battle for the customer

The Battle for the Customer will ask how rail can use it to strengthen customer focus and look to other industries for best practices in terms of the strategies and mindsets that drive change.