FALTERING plans to connect Glasgow Airport to the rail network have received a major boost after the Transport Minister confirmed the scheme retains his full support.

The £144 million project Glasgow Airport Access Project appeared to hit the buffers last week after experts warned it could do more economic harm than good.

But Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said there was no reason why the Glasgow Airport Access Project (GAAP) could not go ahead.

He said Glasgow City Region partners can overcome the issues identified in a report by consultants.

Mr Yousaf's Transport Scotland department had commissioned the report from transport specialists Jacobs found the current business plan for the link would slow down existing services and take space at Central Station needed for far busier trains.

The experts also said the multi-million pound scheme would struggle to win passengers as it would be slower and less convenient than the bus for many people.

They also found it would hit the economies of Ayrshire and Inverclyde as trains carrying hundreds of commuters would be slowed by two and a half minutes to make away for trams carrying far fewer airport passengers

The ram-train scheme from Glasgow Central Station to Abbotsinch is a cut-price alternative to the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl).

The Labour-led initiative was axed by the SNP Government nearly a decade ago amid concerns over its value for money.

Jacobs said the new design would see trams carrying a few passengers from the airport clogging up rail networks in the south of the city, slowing down busy commuter trains from Ayrshire and Inverclyde by two and a half minutes at a cost of £4 million to the economy.

But Mr Yousaf said he remains positive about finding a solution to the Glasgow Airport Access Project, in an interview with Holyrood magazine.

He said: “There is still some work to be done on the Airport Access Project, and the impact it will have on other services in Ayrshire and Inverclyde, and what the costs are like perhaps in areas that they haven’t taken cognisance of.

“But all that being said, I am positive about finding a solution to the airport access project, it just can’t come at additional cost to the Scottish taxpayer who have already put in a lump sum for City Deal projects.

“If there is an increase in the cost, and then that is managed by the partners, and if the consequences of the impact it could have on other rail networks are also mitigated, then there is no reason why it shouldn’t go ahead.”

The new link is expected to be funded by the City Deal, a roughly £1 billion pot for investment from the UK and Scottish Governments.

The City Region cabinet - the panel of council leaders - now looks set to go back to the drawing board on the rail link.

Mr Yousaf added: “The most difficult part any project is generally getting the money, but Glasgow and the surrounding city partners don’t have that problem with a chunk of money from the Scottish Government, a chunk from the UK Government and their own funding so they have quite a hefty pot.

“It will be for Glasgow, Renfrewshire and partners to develop the outline business case, but my understanding is they’re continuing to look at what projects they are taking forward.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We remain committed to working with our partners to find a solution for the well understood access problems at Glasgow Airport.

“However, the recent independent audit of the Glasgow Airport Access Project has raised questions around the robustness of the business case and potential impacts to the wider regional and Scottish economies, particularly Ayrshire and Inverclyde.

“The Glasgow Airport Access Project, part of the Glasgow City Region Deal, will continue to have our full support and we want to see it succeed recognising as the audit report says that there are significant challenges to the delivery of any rail link to Glasgow Airport.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The Minister’s comments are positive and to be welcomed.

It is in the interests of all of the project partners that we rigorously examine our plans and ensure they secure the maximum economic, social and environmental benefits for the city region.”