ACCLAIMED transport writer Christian Wolmar has blasted plans for a tram-train link at Glasgow Airport as a "short-term fix" that will "encourage very few people to leave their cars at home".

Mr Wolmar, an award-winning transport commentator who is bidding to be Labour's candidate for London mayor, urged councillors at Glasgow and Renfrewshire to give an alternative proposal for a revised heavy rail link a "fair hearing".

It comes days after the leaders of Glasgow City Council and Renfrewshire Council announced that they were seeking City Deal funding to make a tram-train link at the airport at reality by 2025, replacing the axed Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl) scheme.

A tram-train - estimated to cost £144 million in 2025 prices - was backed by independent consultants, Aecom, as the best option to improve access to Glasgow Airport, which currently can only be reached by road, but a Scottish Government feasibility study warned that it would be barely faster than the existing bus service and hindered by a lack of spare capacity at Glasgow Central.

Mr Wolmar said: "Building a tram/train system to Glasgow Airport rather than a full rail link is a short term fix that will be poorly used and fails to address the main source of demand. Glasgow, as Scotland’s biggest city, needs an airport that is reached easily from around Scotland, not just Glasgow city centre."

He said council leaders should instead consider local transport campaigners' vision for a heavy rail link, known as NEWgarl, which they claim could be delivered for £137m.

He said: "A heavy rail link will provide that by offering easy access from many destinations around Scotland. It is precisely why the airports at cities like Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Manchester have major train stations offering services from a wide number of destinations.

"A heavy rail link will, too, encourage those people who currently drive to the airport to take the train as it will save them money and the hassle of dealing with long term parking.

"One key point is that an airport station needs to be a through station, not a terminus, in order to maximise its accessibility from around the country.


A slower tram-train link to Glasgow City Centre or Paisley would enable a slight reduction in buses to the airport but will encourage very few people to leave their cars at home."

In a letter to the Herald last week, Bill Forbes of RailQwest, the lobby group which has drawn up the NEWgarl blueprint, said a heavy rail option had been "deliberately and quite cynically excluded" from the decision-making process.

The Scottish Government was also accused of casting doubt on the future of an airport rail link last week, when it warned within hours of the announcement by the Labour-run councils that the projects carried "risks and uncertainties" that would need to be evaluated before "significant sums" of public money was committed to them.

A spokeswoman for Renfrewshire Council, who are heading up the rail link project, said: “Our work and independent studies have shown that heavy rail is not affordable in the current funding arrangements, coming in at an estimated £317m, more than twice cost of the tram-train option. The tram-train offers the best value for money and would generate the greatest shift from cars to public transport. A through station was never a possibility.”