PLANS for a rail link from Glasgow city centre to the airport has been ditched – for the second time.

Ten years after the original Glasgow Airport Rail Link was scrapped, plans to replace the current tram-train proposal with a rapid transit system between the airport and Paisley have been unveiled instead.

The leaders of Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils met with Transport Secretary Michael Matheson and airport bosses on the Executive Steering Group this week and agreed to look at a new proposal.

Work is now to start on preparing a business case for a Personal Rapid Transit system, which has been branded a “toytown solution”.

The council leader Susan Aitken has said that whatever solution is devised must deliver “value for money”.

The Herald:

Funding worth £114.3 million from the City Deal was allocated to the “flagship project”, but preparatory work was halted following a report, commissioned by Transport Scotland, which raised concerns it would have a negative impact on existing rail services from Ayrshire and Inverclyde, and on Central Station which is at capacity.

READ MORE: Glasgow Airport helps boost Scotland's economy by £1.44bn

The news has been met with anger from those who have long campaigned for the rail link to be built.

Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said the proposal will not address the issues.He said: “There is deep frustration and disappointment that yet again we are going through another delay to connect the airport to the rail network.

“Congestion gets progressively worse on the M8 and there’s constraints at Central Station. Has Transport Scotland been asleep at the wheel?”

He said that by changing at Paisley it would take longer and may not attract enough passengers to reduce traffic on the M8. He added: “This is a toytown solution to a serious problem in the Glasgow transport network.”

Labour said the Scottish Parliament voted to progress on the rail link, but it is now being ignored.

Johann Lamont, Glasgow Labour MSP, said: “It is unforgivable that the SNP has once again robbed Glasgow of its own dedicated airport rail link.” 

“Last week the Scottish Government voted with Labour to progress with a rail project, Ministers now owe Parliament and the people of Glasgow an apology. 

“It cannot be right that the will of parliament can be simply ignored.  It cannot be right that our international airport has been denied a rail link.”

READ MORE: Ministers fire warning over Glasgow Airport rail link costs and plans as project row intensifies​

The Herald:

Ms Lamont challenged Transport Secretary Michael Matheson  in Holyrood.
In his reply he confirmed the plan was to replace the tram train link with a rapid transit to Paisley.

He said an independent study “highlighted a number of significant issues, in particular constraints at Glasgow Central station and the potential impact on services to Inverclyde, Ayrshire and East Kilbride. 

“The rail link would have resulted in a reduction in, or a detrimental impact on, those services and would have prevented the enhancements that we intend to provide to them. 

“Therefore, because the issues could not be addressed through the outline business case, the city deal partners have identified a PRT system as the preferred option that they intend to take forward.” 

The new plan would see passengers board carriages or “pods”, like ones used at Heathrow Airport, to take them to the station at Paisley where they would catch existing services to Glasgow and elsewhere.

READ MORE: Airport rail link will ‘do more harm than good’​

Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, ordered a review of all city deal projects when she took over as council leader and chairwoman of the City Deal cabinet.

She said: “Improved connectivity to Glasgow Airport is a key priority. However the advice from officers and consultants is that significant questions remain about the deliverability of the current tram train option, particularly in relation to capacity at Central Station.

"As a result, the Executive Steering Group has agreed that additional work should be done to establish an alternative Outline Business Case for a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) option.” This work was not advanced by the previous City Deal Cabinet, but it is now crucial in order to allow us to make a fully informed choice about which of the options in front of us should be progressed."

The Herald:  

Ms Aitken added:  “I remain committed to a solution that delivers improved public transport connectivity to Glasgow Airport – but I am determined that it should also provide value for money for the city, and deliver the widest possible inclusive economic benefits. I’m confident that we have made significant progress towards that outcome today.” 

Glasgow Airport said congestion on the M8 means action is needed and “doing nothing is not an option”.