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Extension urged for proposed Glasgow Airport tram-train link

TramForward, the campaigning arm of the Light Rail Transit Association, is urging the Scottish government to consider extending theproposed Glasgow Airport tram-train service to Renfrew.

The Glasgow Airport Strategic Transport Network Studythat recommended tram-train as the best-value option for new connectivity was led by Glasgow Airport with Transport Scotland, Renfrewshire Council and Glasgow City Council.

The capital cost would be about £92.4m, according to the study.

TramForward said that extending the proposal to Renfrew would help ensure a more consistent traffic flow for the tram-train link.Currently, Renfrew is the only major town that does not benefit from having a rail connection in the Greater Glasgow area and is near to the airport.

TramForward stated that it welcomed plans by the Scottish transport minister, Keith Brown,who confirmed he has asked Transport Scotland to work with the airport and local councils on the feasibility of the tram-train link proposed.

However, it also noted that Edinburgh Airport is shortly to benefit from the new tram and rail interchanges at Gogar and Edinburgh Park which will make this a very attractive option for travel not only from the east but also the west of Scotland. 

As a consequence, Glasgow will then be the only central belt airport that does not have a rail connection with its major population, and will therefore be in an uncompetitive position.

Extending the proposed TramTrain link to Renfrew could enhance the business case, according toTramForward.

The study considered the costs and benefits of shuttle buses, people mover / PRT, tram-train, heavy rail, traditional bus network upgrades, and managed motorways.

An airport spokesman said: “The study identifies a tram-train option as having the greatest potential to deliver modal shift and enhance surface access.”

The study says: “[Tram-train] is essentially light rail, but with the capacity to run on both the conventional rail network, and on-street tram tracks (hence tram-train). The technology is currently relatively new to the UK, and therefore carries a technical risk. Along with the heavy rail option tested in this appraisal this option provides the greatest potential for modal shift in this study. This is because it enhances journey times for all trips travelling through Glasgow City Centre to the Airport, and minimises the need for interchange for many airport trips. It would potentially offer a high quality and prestigious link to Glasgow Airport.

“As is common with any new rail intervention however, abstraction from existing bus services will contribute significantly to its success, in this case potentially the Airport to City Centre Shuttle. A key risk to this scheme is the potential lack of capacity to run this service on the rail network during peak periods (due to lack of available paths on the rail network between PGS and Glasgow Central). Should this be the case, the service could run a limited shuttle operation between the local rail interchange point (assumed in this study to be Paisley Gilmour Street to maximise interchange potential with local rail services) and Glasgow Airport. Analysis shows that this reduces the attractiveness of this option. A further risk to the deliverability of this option is the introduction of light rail rolling stock to the mainline rail network, which requires further exploration.

“If the service is assumed to run to its full potential without any additional capacity provided on the rail network (i.e. displace existing rail paths on the network), this in turn would impact upon existing rail users, with associated disbenefits which would impact upon the forecast economic benefits. Overall, the capital costs for tram-train are much lower than for heavy rail. The environmental impact may be less due to the nature of the infrastructure required for tram-train rolling stock. A potential route alongside the M8 may also minimise visual and landscape impacts.”

(Image copyright: Thomas Nugent)

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