Row erupts over decision to scrap Glasgow rail link for transport pods

A row has broken out over a decision to cancel a direct rail link between Glasgow Airport and the town of Paisely, just east of Glasgow, in favour of exploring a self-driving transportation pod system.

The direct rail link was announced as part of a £1.1bn investment in the Glasgow City Region deal agreed in 2014 and was expected to be operational by 2025.

The opposition Labour leader of Glasgow City Council called the cancellation a "betrayal", but the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) controlled council said the rail link was not viable.

Its cancellation followed discussions last week between airport bosses, the leaders of Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils, and the Scottish government’s transport secretary, Michael Matheson of the SNP.

Frank McAveety, leader of Glasgow Labour, said the decision meant Glasgow would continue to be "one of few cities of its size that does not have a dedicated rail link to its airport".

He added: "This is the second time that Glasgow has had its rail link project axed by the SNP. This is a betrayal for the city. The Glasgow Airport Rail Link project has undergone review after review.

"Our city is growing year-on-year and continues to be the powerhouse of the Scottish economy. It’s time the SNP stopped dragging their feet, put the Glasgow Airport Rail Link project back on track and invested in the railway network that our city needs."

Susan Aitken, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said improving connectivity to the airport was a key priority for the council, but that "serious doubts remain about the viability of the option Mr McAveety continues to champion, about major detrimental impacts upon the daily running of the country’s biggest railway station and whether tram-train financially stacks up".

She added: "Councillor McAveety would prefer that I give up on finding a workable solution, close my ears to the repeated concerns from transport professionals and take a massive risk with valuable public finances and our wider transport network. That’s not leadership and I won’t take that risk."

The Scottish government said it supported the decision to scrap the city centre link. A spokesman said: "The personal rapid transit system option potentially meets this aim, so it is sensible that it is fully explored before a final decision is made. As this is a City Region Deal project any decision rests with the City Region Deal Cabinet."

Personal transport pods have been in use within Heathrow Airport for some time. Each can travel at around 25 mph and can carry four people with luggage.

Image: The pod system in use at Heathrow (Arup)

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