Clyde Tunnel could see traffic toll booths introduced if funding isn't received from Scottish Government

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A senior Glasgow councillor is calling on the Scottish Government to provide more funding to maintain the Clyde Tunnel — or tolls could be required.

Cllr Ruairi Kelly, SNP, has written to the cabinet secretary for transport, Màiri McAllan, to highlight financial pressures on the city’s road network.

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His letter follows a report from council officials which revealed current investment in Glasgow’s roads infrastructure “falls short” of what is needed to keep the current condition by £11.2 million.

Officials said the 60-year-old tunnel requires “significant investment to address necessary repairs” — and recommended spending £16m on the structure.

The funding received for operation and maintenance is “the same amount per kilometre as for a standard stretch of road”, which an official said “isn’t sufficient for the specific requirements of the tunnel”. It has been estimated this leads to an annual shortfall of around £820,000.

While the tunnel was running massively overbudget in 1960, the auditor general and comptroller asked the Scottish Home Department if a toll would be considered and it was refused for several reasons: it would discourage the use of the tunnel, it was originally built to replace a free ferry service, and the collection of tolls could cause serious traffic difficulties.

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Cllr Kelly, city convener for neighbourhood services and assets, said he had pointed out “discrepancies” in funding settlements for Glasgow, adding he believes the Clyde Tunnel is of “national significance”.

He wants the tunnel to be funded like a trunk road, which are maintained by Transport Scotland, and said the alternative would be to consider tolling. Introducing a toll has previously been presented as an option during budget setting processes but has never been taken.

Speaking at a council meeting, Cllr Kelly said: “The funding doesn’t really take into account the usage of the roads. The Clyde Tunnel gets approximately 65,000 cars through it a day.

“There will be other sections of road that get the same funding that don’t have that volume of traffic on it in a year. The wear and tear is significantly more in areas of Glasgow due to the population and the number of people that travel across our roads.”

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Cllr Kelly said austerity, the covid pandemic, rising inflation and the city’s equal pay settlement had all affected council finances, and savings have often been taken from neighbourhood services.

The Clyde Tunnel has never charged a toll in its 60 year historyThe Clyde Tunnel has never charged a toll in its 60 year history
The Clyde Tunnel has never charged a toll in its 60 year history

He also highlighted the need for funding to replace street lighting columns in Glasgow — with 41% of the city’s 74,000 beyond their expected service life — and how maintenance of new cycle and footways adds to budget pressures. He said he is working with council officials to identify investment.

Top priorities for the tunnel include improving the pedestrian and cycling routes, repairing the ventilation system and a power system upgrade.

Cllr Cecilia O’Lone, Labour, said it is “going to be a major issue”. “As the main road through Glasgow, if that goes our infrastructure is going to fall round about it as well,” she added.

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Her Labour colleague, Cllr Stephen Docherty, said there had been a “chronic lack of investment” in councils from the Scottish Government.

A council official said a team is “keeping an eye on it [the tunnel] on a regular basis”. It will “make sure there is nothing major and if there is we have to bring that to the attention of our capital planning board”.

The Scottish Government spokesman said: “While Scotland is facing the most challenging budget settlement since devolution due to ongoing UK Government austerity, this year Glasgow City Council will receive more than £1.5 billion to fund local services which equates to an extra £62.6m on last year.

“Work is also ongoing with COSLA to establish a new fiscal framework for councils through the Verity House Agreement, a landmark agreement that is forging a stronger partnership between the Scottish Government and local councils through the spirit of collaboration and engagement.”

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