Glasgow Airport Rail Link
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Glasgow Airport Rail Link

Proposed map

The Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL) is a proposed link between Glasgow City Centre and Glasgow Airport. The original plans for an airport rail link were proposed during the 2000s to directly link Glasgow Central station with Glasgow Airport in Scotland. The link was intended for completion by 2013 and would have had a service of four trains per hour via Paisley Gilmour Street railway station.[1]

On 17 September 2009 the rail link was cancelled as part of public spending cuts.[2]

In 2014, proposals were in place to resurrect the project dependent on the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum.[3]

In October 2016, plans were resurrected to build a railway link to Glasgow Airport. The journey time of 16.5 minutes has also been proposed.[4] Under current plans the line would be opened in 2025.[5]

The link was suggested in 2019 to be constructed as part of a Glasgow Metro project, using a Personal Rapid Transport system.[6]


GARL would have run from a reconstructed Platform 12 at Glasgow Central on the former Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway, Ayrshire Coast Line and Inverclyde Line; via Cardonald, Hillington East and Hillington West, to Paisley Gilmour Street station. It would then have run along the Inverclyde Line branching-off just before Paisley St James, onto a new purpose-built 1.2 mile (1.9 km) line which would have taken it over the M8 motorway into the airport station, situated close to the main terminal building at Glasgow Airport.

Construction of the link

The Scottish Parliament on 29 November 2006 passed the GARL bill by 118 votes to 8, thus allowing the construction of the route to begin. Construction was to be in phases with the re-location of football pitches in the route's path at Paisley St James scheduled for 2007, before route clearing and track work in 2007 and 2008. The cost of the route was estimated at £170m, with inflation increasing the cost to a potential £210m.

The Ayrshire and Inverclyde lines are very busy with passenger and freight traffic. GARL would have added to this congestion; to alleviate any problems a third track was to be installed between Shields Junction (the main depot for trains running on the SPT network) and Arkleston Junction, east of Paisley. A re-alignment of the track layout at Wallneuk Junction near Paisley Gilmour Street would also have been required. Resembling a return to the layout previous to Electrification of the Ayrshire Coast Line

The most controversial proposal in the scheme was the building of the line on a viaduct over playing fields in the Paisley St. James area and into Glasgow Airport.[7] After much discussion, SPT assured local residents that the playing fields would be returned to original use, with even better facilities such as under-soil drainage and new changing rooms. Using a one-piece bridge design, GARL was to cross the M8 motorway and into the airport.

The scheme was also criticised for the absence of direct connections to the rest of the Scottish railway network which would bypass Glasgow Central - historically the two options for doing this have been Glasgow Crossrail and the electrification of the Shotts Line to Edinburgh. In May 2008, First ScotRail announced that the Shotts Line had been route cleared for Class 158 and Class 170 DMU trains to operate on the line and that an increase in services was likely in the near future.

In 2008, control of the GARL project passed from SPT to Transport Scotland who would have overseen the building of the route. Overhead catenary work and a re-modelling of Shields Junction over the past year have already taken place in connection with GARL. In December 2008, Transport Scotland announced that the tender competition will begin in spring 2009, meaning GARL would have been operational in early 2013.[8]

Rolling stock

In the proposals drawn up by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Class 334 units are shown to work the route. However, speculation surrounds actual rolling stock plans for GARL with the likelihood of First ScotRail using 4-car EMUs rather than a traditional 3-car unit. First ScotRail formerly used 4-car British Rail Class 322 units on its Glasgow Central/Edinburgh Waverley to North Berwick service - themselves ex-airport rail link trains, having been originally built to serve Stansted Airport near London.

In April 2008, First ScotRail placed a bid to tender for a new build of railway carriages for the SPT network of 120 vehicles. Subsequently, on 11 July 2008, Transport Scotland announced that 38 Class 380 trains have been ordered for use on Ayrshire and Inverclyde services and also the Glasgow Airport Rail Link. With the latter project cancelled, the additional units will be put to use on other services in the future.[9]


On 17 September 2009, the Scottish Government scrapped the airport branch component of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link amid concerns over the need for public spending cuts;[10] however, some elements of the project (capacity enhancement, resignalling, and a new platform at Glasgow Central) were taken forward to completion.

As part of the driver training programme for the route and new rolling stock, design and media company TotalizeMedia were hired to create a simulation of the infrastructure. This simulation was built using a professional derivative of the railway simulator Train Simulator / RailWorks. With the cancellation of the project, TotalizeMedia redirected the development into a home simulation title.[11]

Planned reinstatement of the link

After the project was cancelled, a tram-train line has now been proposed to connect Glasgow Airport with the City Centre using a one-mile tram line to the Airport from the Paisley-Glasgow line.[12]

On 3 July 2014, an article in Glasgow's Evening Times newspaper - jointly written by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander - said: "Glasgow plans to create a £1.1 billion infrastructure fund that will support projects such as the city centre-airport rail link, major improvements to the region's roads and bus network, and the development of new employment sites." [13] The proposals would entail a 50/50 investment with £500m each coming from the UK central government in Westminster and the Scottish Government in Holyrood, but being dependent on a "No" vote in the Scottish Independence referendum. A resurrected GARL would be included as one of the projects which could possibly be funded by the fund.

2016 Revival

In October 2016, plans were resurrected to build a railway link to Glasgow Airport. The journey time of 16.5 minutes has also been proposed. The proposals include two Options:[4]

Light Rail Option: Cost of £144 million; Running between Glasgow Central to Glasgow Airport via Paisley.[5]

PRT Option: Proposed link off the existing Glasgow Central- Gourock/ Wemyss Bay line to the airport via a relocated Paisley St James.

The Proposal Statement:

Passengers would travel on the Glasgow Central/Wemyss Bay - Gourock line and disembark at a relocated Paisley St James station. They would then join the PRT system and four minutes later arrive at the airport.

A new station is to be built at junction 29 of the M8 for interchange (relocated Paisley St James) to the existing line and then a PRT link to the airport.

The scheme could be opened by 2025.[14][5]

Council leads approved a light rail link between Glasgow Airport & Glasgow Central with construction beginning in 2022 and completed by 2025.[5]

2019 Revival

In 2019 as part of a £10 billion plan, The Glasgow Connectivity Commission proposed linking Glasgow airport to Braehead and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The first phase was approved by Glasgow and Renfrewshire council leaders in early 2020. The initial project would link Glasgow airport to Paisley Gilmour Street train station. Construction won't begin until approval from both council's members is given. [15][16]

Plans to use Personal Rapid Transit system

In 2019, the initial plans to create a direct link were once again shelved. One of the reasons stated was concerns of overcrowding at Glasgow Central. A new proposal has been suggested to introduce a Personal Rapid Transit system instead between Glasgow Airport and Paisley Gilmour Street.[6]


  1. ^ "Glasgow Airport Rail Link". Transport Scotland. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  2. ^ "Ministers scrap airport rail plan". BBC News Online. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 2009. Scottish Government has scrapped the £120m Glasgow Airport Rail Link amid public spending cut concerns.
  3. ^ Hetherington, Peter (22 July 2014). "Glasgow puts 'city deal' before Scottish independence". The Guardian Online. Retrieved 2014.
  4. ^ a b "£80million rail link could take travellers from new station to Glasgow Airport". Evening Times. 13 October 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d "Work will begin on trams to Glasgow Airport in 2022 as council leaders approve £144m rail link plan". Glasgow Live. 12 December 2016. Retrieved 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Glasgow Airport link with Paisley Gilmour Street to be explored". Retrieved 2019.
  7. ^ "All - Projects - Transport Scotland". Archived from the original on 3 April 2009.
  8. ^ "Construction Industry lines up for Glasgow Airport Rail Link". Transport Scotland. 18 December 2008. Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  9. ^ "What next for class 320s? - RailUK Forums". Retrieved 2013.
  10. ^ "Ministers Scrap Airport Rail Plan". BBC News Scotland. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  11. ^ "GARL Simulation". Retrieved 2010.
  12. ^ "Trams considered for Glasgow airport rail link". Retrieved 2014.
  13. ^ "Scottish independence: Governments to invest £1bn in Glasgow". 3 July 2014 – via
  14. ^ "Personal Rapid Transit Option Revealed for Glasgow Airport Rail Link - Building Design & Construction Magazine". 17 October 2016. Archived from the original on 28 October 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ "Glasgow Airport Metro system gets council leader approval". Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ "Radical blueprint calls for Glasgow metro".

External links

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