In early December, the Scottish Government set out its transport investment plans for the next 20 years. The biggest single recommendation within that is Clyde Metro, a project with the potential to transform metropolitan Glasgow: economically, socially and environmentally.

Clyde Metro was first proposed three years ago by the Connectivity Commission, the expert group commissioned by the Glasgow City government to rethink and reshape how citizens move around our city and its wider region.

It was immediately clear though that Clyde Metro was about more than just transport. It’s a transformational project, one that can be a catalyst for major growth and development across the west of Scotland while making a huge contribution to our net-zero targets.

In such a short space of time it’s remarkable that Clyde Metro has progressed to become a national priority, one which will be the subject of more detailed analysis in early 2023.

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But, while this is a long-term project (Manchester, our closest comparator, has, for example, spent 30 years developing its Metrolink), it’s important that citizens and businesses are soon able to see detailed progress if they are to have confidence and trust in the plans.

What that means in practice is the start of the conversation around who will sponsor, operate and deliver Clyde Metro and, crucially, what the options are for funding it.

In early 2023 all parties involved in progressing Clyde Metro need to strengthen working arrangements to flesh out these fundamental issues. Transport Scotland, the city council, Scottish Government and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) should be considering how best to create a resourced and skilled team that can deliver the required regional transformation programme.

That must include, but go way beyond, exploring technical solutions and transport considerations and begin to properly align Clyde Metro to plans for major new and existing housing developments, investment opportunities for jobs and industry, and unlocking major tracts of land for productive use.

But also better connecting citizens, particularly those in outlying and poorly served communities, to employment, education and social opportunities, as well as public services. This is essential to delivering on Clyde Metro’s transformational potential and is the critical element which only local authorities can bring to the table.

Complementing this, we need to build a credible Clyde Metro brand, one which is clear in how it communicates to ordinary citizens the benefits and opportunities relevant to their everyday lives and their communities. An independent panel of advisors, experienced and influential voices in their specialisms, would help provide the confidence that Clyde Metro will deliver those regional benefits.

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It is imperative that we also now translate Clyde Metro into a credible delivery approach. That involves the difficult and detailed discussions around planning issues, delivering the actual project and then the issue of who operates Clyde Metro. But we also need to open up the conversation on resourcing this programme. It has always been my view that Clyde Metro would not be entirely publicly funded and it is one of the projects we at the council have been testing investor interest in as part of our Greenprint for Investment portfolio.

And crucially, we must be mindful of falling into a trap of giving an impression that Clyde Metro has simply moved from a concept to a conversation about processes. We need to have those difficult discussions around options and models for governance and funding as soon as possible so we can then begin to talk to citizens about routes and destinations, about timetables for delivery and about when those transformational benefits will impact them. It’s only then can they have full confidence in Clyde Metro’s delivery.

Now is the time for bold leadership to reinforce Glasgow and the City Region as a competitive force across Europe and, indeed, the globe.

Susan Aitken is leader of Glasgow City Council