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Willie Miller's Blog

This is Willie Miller's Blog.

More on infrastructure and GARL

September 21st, 2009

visualisations of proposal

Last week saw news of the cancellation of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) and the various stories continued into the Sunday papers about the whys and wherefores of the decision. It provides a good follow-on to my previous comments about European approaches to transport led infrastructure being a central part of urbanism and indeed of regional planning.

The reaction to this cancellation is relatively subdued as we might expect from a country that puts little value on these things. Even the Commonwealth Games Federation said that the rail link was ‘not critical to the successful delivery of the Games'.  Presumably the masses of participants and spectators will travel to Glasgow from the airport by bus, taxi or hire car or perhaps the subtext is that the Games will be serviced more conveniently from Edinburgh Airport - currently a much more attractive gateway to Scotland. Unsurprisingly, most upset of all seem to be Glasgow City Council and the construction industry. Looking at the horrible visualisations of the proposal and the ghastly rolling stock parked up in the glass roofed station at the airport, it was easy to get the sense that this was a dinosaur proposal with something less than wide appeal, quickly going nowhere.

Of course a rail link to the airport is not just about the Commonwealth Games - or shouldn't be. Glasgow and Edinburgh are the largest airports in the UK without rail links to their respective cities although Edinburgh may have a tram link in the next few years. I'm sure that there is a worthwhile case for this rail link but not a word has been heard about it in defense of the cut.  Is it really possible that Glasgow Airport will fulfil its projected growth figures and handle over 20 million passengers by 2020 without any substantive transport infrastructure other than a few buses?

Perhaps the real issue is that the GARL proposal is the wrong one for Glasgow. An airport is surely a core part of a regional transport hub - not just a branch line terminus to be cut out of budgets at the first round of savings. A link from the airport to Central Station is okay but is never going to have the appeal and utility that a more flexible light rail system would have - one that could service a wider area, connect to the range of suburban rail services on the south and north bank of the Clyde and the Subway system.

Hopefully this will be seen as a opportunity to rethink future public transport infrastructure in the metropolitan area and see how the needs of residential and business communities as well as visitors can best be served - and how the airport's role as an important driver of the Scottish economy can be accommodated in a contemporary urban environment.  Transport as an integral part of city building and placemaking rather than just the process of moving folk around.


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