Clyde Metro explained: The massive new light rail network that could connect all of Glasgow

The proposed Clyde Metro would connect all of Glasgow to each other through a light and heavy rail network - and make for a much more daunting sub crawl.

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What is the ‘Clyde Metro’?

You can think of the Clyde Metro as a massive expansion of Glasgow’s long existing subway network - rather than going in a circle around the city centre, south side, and west end - it could extend as far as East Kilbride to the south, Kirkintilloch to the north, Newton to the east, and Erskine to the west.

It’s more than just a simple upgrade of the Clockwork Orange however, it would encorporate building entirely new metro lines - split between heavy metro, and light metro. It would transform Dalmuir, Hyndland, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Paisley, West Street, Newton, and Bellgrove into commuter hubs - with the potential to become interchange points.

The focus of the Clyde Metro would be to connect the city centre to hospitals, universities and colleges, key employment centres, and major transport hubs like Central and Queen Street stations, as well as Glasgow Airport.

If work began today, it would cost billions of pounds and take upwards of 30 years - but it would also better connect more than 1.5 million people to employment, education, and health services in and around Glasgow - particularly in the deprived and often ignored East End of Glasgow.

The Scottish Government in their efforts to cut down on emissions from cars realised the importance of upgrading Glasgow’s public transport system, as the report reads ‘Clyde Metro would have a key role to play in tackling social exclusion.’

The report acknowledges congestion in around the city from traffic makes travel by bus an unattractive option - as well as capacity issues on Glasgow buses and other inefficiencies of public transport. It’s hoped by building the Clyde Metro that it will compliment existing services - but may include the conversion from existing railways into tram or heavy metro lines.

This would free up rail capacity for longer distance journeys, so you might see more exotic destinations at the boards at Glasgow Central - rather than East Kilbride, Crossmyloof, etc.

The proposed Clyde Metro map shown to the Scottish Government - they approved.The proposed Clyde Metro map shown to the Scottish Government - they approved.
The proposed Clyde Metro map shown to the Scottish Government - they approved.

Will it go ahead?

The Clyde Metro has been confirmed by the Scottish Government as a key priority for future transport investment - this seems it’s more likely than ever that Glasgow will get the long-awaited public transport boost that it needs. The mass transit plan is one of 45 recommendations included in the Scottish Government’s final report of the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) which was published yesterday.

Today’s progress follows the Connectivity Commission‘s recommendation in 2019 that work should be taken forward to develop a proposal on a wider regional metro opportunity. A council-led team produced a ‘Metro Feasibility Study’ on behalf of Glasgow City Region, which was subsequently mobilised to highlight the benefits that a modern rapid transit system could deliver, whilst also collaboratively supporting the Scottish Government’s STPR2 process.

Just because Glasgow City Council got a thumbs up for the feasibility study - it doesn’t mean that work can begin just yet - they still need to work with Transport Scotland, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), and other regional partners in loads of bureacratic set-up including drafting a business case, design, and governance model for the Clyde Metro.

It’ll take a long time (30 years for full completion) and cost a lot of money (billions) - but it looks like it’s going to happen, although don’t expect any work to begin for at least the next few years - that was until a UK investment bank got involved, more on that below. Conversely the Glasgow Subway cost around £157,000,000 (adjusted for inflation) and took five years to build in 1896.

Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of the Glasgow City Region Cabinet, spoke about the landmark moment: “This announcement represents a significant milestone in our pledge to establish a modern, sustainable, integrated public transport system for Glasgow and the surrounding region.

“Today’s confirmation of Clyde Metro as an investment priority also reflects highly positively on the work undertaken by Transport Scotland, the council, SPT and our partners in developing the concept and the undeniable case for it.

“A Clyde Metro can help us address the climate emergency by delivering clean and net-zero carbon connectivity, whilst also providing the affordable, sustainable and integrated public transport system our citizens deserve.”

Could the Clyde Metro project be accelerated?

A computer generated image of what a Clyde Metro station could look like at Glasgow AirportA computer generated image of what a Clyde Metro station could look like at Glasgow Airport
A computer generated image of what a Clyde Metro station could look like at Glasgow Airport

A project that seeks to accelerate the development of Clyde Metro has been agreed between Glasgow and UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB).

UKIB has been working with the council to support the development of financial and commercial plans for the mass transit project which was recently confirmed by the Scottish Government as a key priority for future transport investment.

Clyde Metro, which represents a multi-billion-pound investment over a 30-year period, could better connect more than 1.5 million people to employment, education, and health services in and around Glasgow.

John Flint, CEO of the UK Infrastructure Bank said: “Local authorities have a pivotal role to play in the journey to net zero and supporting regional and economic growth - the twin missions of the Bank.

“It is a privilege to work with Glasgow so we can better understand how the Bank can help local authorities to build the capabilities and financial expertise they need to drive the transition to a Net Zero, climate resilient, thriving economy.”

The relationship with UKIB has arisen through the work of the Council’s ‘Green Economy team’ as part of Glasgow’s Green Deal, a transformative project undertaken by Glasgow City Council to reshape the city’s economy to help deliver ‘equitable, net zero carbon and climate resilient living by 2030.’

UKIB has provided commercial insights around the investment case for Clyde Metro and ran a series of workshops with regional stakeholders and representatives from the public and private finance sector to explore funding options for mass transit.

The pilot project also marks the beginning of a wider strategic relationship with UKIB, who will review Glasgow City Council’s broader net zero investment work and seek to identify further areas for future collaboration or possible lending.

Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow City Region Cabinet said: “Clyde Metro will be transformational across the west of Scotland, a catalyst for major economic growth and development, and social and educational opportunities while also making a huge contribution to our decarbonisation agenda.

“This collaboration with UKIB will help us further explore those critical funding and investment options for Clyde Metro, inform early engagement with potential partners and identify the financial structures necessary to support large scale mass transit projects and the wider net zero transition agenda.

“In progressing the vital discussions around the resourcing of Clyde Metro we can then begin to talk to our citizens about routes and destinations, about timetables for delivery and about the transformational benefits it will have for them and their communities.”

Work is currently ongoing much sooner than originally planned, with learning to be shared from mass transit and bus pilots ongoing with West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Transport for Greater Manchester.