Junctions on the M8 are numbered from east to west, increasing sequentially from Junction 1 (Hermiston Gait) to Junction 31 (West Ferry). Between Junctions 1 and 8 (Baillieston Interchange), the motorway is constructed to rural standards, with longer distances between junctions, and generally only two running lanes in each direction. The section between Junction 1 and 2 (Claylands/M9) was only completed in 1995. Prior to this the eastern terminus of the motorway was at the at-grade Newbridge Roundabout.
The route between Junction 2 and Junction 6 was completed throughout the 1960s and 70s in several construction contracts. The Glasgow Motorway Archive generally focusses on anything west of Harthill Services, located roughly half was between Junction 4A (Heartlands) and Junction 5 (Shotts). The services were completed in 1969, at a cost of £303,926. They continue to operate today, having been extensively refurbished in the mid-2000s. A replacement helical truss footbridge was provided at this time, and has become something of an iconic feature of the M8.
The section between Junction 6 (Newhouse) and 8 was only completed in 2017 after many years of planning. It is up to four lanes wide in each direction, however only two lanes are provided for through traffic. Prior to this traffic used a six mile section of A8 dual carriageway, which was widened and grade-separated in the early 1960s. Peak time congestion is a regular feature of both carriageways, with traffic flows and incidents regularly causing miles of slow traffic. Prior to 1997, the Scottish Office had intended to progressively the widen the route to three lanes as traffic flows increased. The section between Junctions 5 and 6 was expected to be completed first. Junction 3A (Starlaw) was constructed in the 1980s, with Junction 4A following in the early 2010s.
From Junction 8 the road becomes urban in nature. From here to Junction 15 (Townhead) the M8 was built in several stages as the Monkland Motorway. Named after the canal, the solum of which the route follows towards the city centre. The M8 on this stretch is three lanes wide with full hard shoulders as far as Junction 12 (Cumbernauld Road) where it widens to four. The geometric layout of Junction 11 (Stepps Road) and Junction 13 (Provan) was designed in such a way that the proposed Stirling and North Link Motorway’s could be accommodated later. A watered down M80 Stepps Bypass was eventually constructed in 1992. From Provan to Townhead the road widens to five lanes with intermittent hard shoulders. It was originally constructed with four lanes, thought to be the first planned section of four lane motorway in the UK. Several features unique to the Glasgow motorway system are first seen on this section, including internally illuminated overhead sign gantries, high mast lighting and the polished aggregate finished retaining walls. The various Monkland Motorway schemes were completed in the mid to late 1970s.
The section of M8 from Junction 15 to 17 (St. George’s Cross) was constructed in two contracts as part of the North Flank of the Glasgow Inner Ring Road. Here, the road initially drops to three lanes in each direction, before widening again to the east of Junction 16 (Port Dundas). From Junction 17 the road rises onto two elevated viaducts which skirt around the north of Cowcaddens, crossing Garscube and New City Roads in the process. Partially constructed slip roads can be seen be seen mid-way along this section. These were constructed to allow for a future connection to the Maryhill Motorway. This section of M8 is famous for the slip roads which join the motorway on the right-hand side. Extensive works were undertaken in early to mid-1990s to provide additional traffic capacity, however this section still suffers from daily congestion. Construction on this section began in 1965 and was completed in 1971.
The M8 motorway connects the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. It is of great economic importance to Scotland and is a strategic transport link. It was built in several stages, the majority of which were completed between 1965 and 1980. The route has both rural and urban characteristics, and with traffic flows upwards of 150,000 vehicles per day, is amongst the busiest motorways in Europe. What was once known as the Glasgow Inner Ring Road makes up the urban section to the north and west of Glasgow city centre.
On this page we provide a general overview of the route, its history, its construction timeline and facts and figures you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll find some photos and other media towards the bottom of the page. The Glasgow Motorway Archive focusses on the western part of the route from Harthill (J5) through to West Ferry (J31). For specific details on each construction contract (there were 20 in total) click on the links in the table below. These are listed by name, with current junction numbers provided for clarity.
By 1960 the Scottish Office had a stated desire to upgrade the A8 between Greenock and Edinburgh as part of plans to modernise Scotland’s infrastructure and provide a much-needed boost to economic output. Government White Papers, notably 1963’s “Central Scotland: A Programme for Growth”, reinforced this intention, although it wasn’t until nearer 1965 that it was confirmed which sections of the route would completed to motorway standard.
The Scottish Office took the lead in developing contracts in conjunction with the local authorities in all areas except Glasgow Corporation. Here, the council developed their own proposals, published within 1965’s “A Highway Plan for Glasgow”, although these proposals allowed for connections to the new east-west route.
Target 1 of Glasgow’s plan intended that the M8 between Hillington and Baillieston (including the Glasgow Inner Ring Road north and west flanks) would be complete by 1975. This was achieved by April 1980, with construction taking place in phases from November 1965. The completed route, approximately 20 miles long, cost around £120 million to build and is valued at more £1.5 billion in today’s prices. The route was completed through several major construction contracts, some of which were of considerable scale. These schemes were provided with 75% grant assistance from the Scottish Development Department.
To the east of the city, the Scottish Office and Lanarkshire County Council commenced work on two projects. The first of these was the upgrade of the A8 between Baillieston and Newhouse to grade separated dual carriageway which began construction in 1960. This was followed shortly after by the construction of a section of new road M8 between Newhouse and Whitburn. This section, which replaced the A8 single three lane carriageway, became the first section of M8 to open to traffic. To the west, Renfrew County promoted bypasses of Renfrew and Bishopton, completed between 1968 and 1975.
West of Bishopton, the route was constructed as dual carriageway, with work completed by the mid-1980s. The eastern sections between Newbridge and Whitburn were completed in the early 1970s, with an extension to the A720 Edinburgh City Bypass completed in 1995.
City Bypass to Newbridge*
Newbridge to Dechmont*
Dechmont to Whitburn*
West of Harthill to Newhouse
Baillieston to Newhouse
City Boundary to Baillieston Interchange
Monkland Motorway Stage 2B
Monkland Motorway Stage 2A
Monkland Motorway Stage 1
Glasgow IRR - Townhead & Woodside Stage 1
Glasgow IRR - Woodside Stage 2
Glasgow IRR - Charing Cross Section
Glasgow IRR - Kingston Bridge & Approaches
Renfrew Motorway Stage 1
Renfrew Motorway Stage 2
St. James Interchange Improvement
Bishopton Bypass Stage 1
Bishopton Bypass Stage 2
1 - 2
2 - 3
3 - 4
4 - 5
5 - 6
8 - 6
8 - 10
11 - 12
12 - 15
15 - 16
16 - 17
17 - 19
19 - 20
20 - 24
24 - 26
26 - 29a
29a - 30
30 - 31
Scott Wilson/Fairhurst & Balfour Beatty
Sir Alexander Gibb & AM Carmichael/Tarmac
Sir Alexander Gibb & Whatlings (Civil Eng) Ltd.
Sir Aleaxnder Gibb & Whatlings (Civil Eng) Ltd.
Lanark County & Whatlings (Civil Eng) Ltd.
Amey & RPS & Ferrovial Lagan JV
Babtie Shaw & Morton & Cementation Ltd.
Strathclyde Region & WC French
Strathclyde Region & Whatlings (Civil Eng) Ltd.
Glasgow Corporation & Balfour Beatty
Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Marples Ridgeway
Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Balfour Beatty
WA Fairhurst & Whatlings (Civil Eng) Ltd.
WA Fairhurst & Logan Marples Ridgeway
Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Balfour Beatty
WA Fairhurst & Leonard Fairclough
Crouch & Hogg & Peter Lind Marples Ridgeway
Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Balfour Beatty
Freeman Fox & Partners & Whatlings (Civil Eng) Ltd.
Freeman Fox & Partners & Tarmac
11th December 1995
30th November 1970
23rd September 1969
1st December 1965
24th August 1967
April 2017 (Phased)
25th April 1980
25th April 1980
29th June 1979
30th May 1975
7th April 1968
7th May 1971
4th February 1972
26th June 1970
15th October 1976
15th October 1976
18th March 1968
17th August 1993
27th December 1970
18th November 1975
The comprehensive roads report for Glasgow Corporation which was published in 1965.
Timeline of key events & milestones in the development and construction of the Glasgow motorway system.
There are a number of myths about the Glasgow motorway system. On this page we get to the facts.
NOTE: Contracts marked with * are currently outside the Glasgow Motorway Archive area of interest and do not have specific articles.
Covers Stages 1, 2A and 2B of the project which completed the M8 from Baillieston to Townhead.
Final section of the M8, completed in April 2017. This six mile section links Baillieston Interchange with Newhouse.
Urban section of M8 which takes the route around the north of the city from Townhead to Great Western Road.
Covers Stages 1 and 2 of the project which completed the M8 from Kingston to Hillington.
Urban section of M8 which takes the rouite through Charing Cross and over the Kingston Bridge.
First M8 scheme completed in the west of Scotland. Completed the route between Hillington and Bishopton in 1968
The Bishopton Bypass extended the M8 to Westferry in two stages completed in 1970 and 1975.
Completed in 1993, St James Interchange was expanded to include free flow links to the A737.
Traffic flows across Scotland have increased massively since the M8 opened to traffic. In the 1960s and 70s annual traffic increases in the order of 7% were not uncommon, and there were further spikes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The stretch of M8 from Baillieston to Hillington was designed to cope with traffic at predicted 1990 levels, and these estimates, published in 1965, were found to be broadly correct. Several sections of the motorway can carry traffic flows exceeding 100,000 vehicles per day. These included the Kingston Bridge, the Inner Ring Road (North Flank) and the section from Kingston to Plantation. Negative traffic growth was experienced for the first time in the Glasgow in 2008 following the global financial crisis, though there have been slight increases in recent years.
The Glasgow Motorway Archive has records of traffic flows dating back to the early 1970s. To illustrate the growth in traffic on the M8, we have provided an example from the Inner Ring Road section. Below you can see figures for the M8 between Junctions 15 and 16 from 1975 to 2015. The section was originally design to handle 100,000 vehicles per day. Widening in the early 1990s increased its capacity to around 120,000 vehicles per day.
Hillington Junction was completed in March 1968 as the eastern terminus of the Renfrew Bypass. This was the first section of M8 to open in the west of the country, constructed in a corridor between the towns of Paisley and Renfrew. Today, it is one of the busiest junctions on the entire route and congestion is common at peak times. From Hillington to Junction 27 (Renfrew Road) the motorway continues as three lanes in each direction with hard shoulders provided almost continuously. The straight section of carriageway immediately east of Arkleston was constructed on the line of the runway of the former Renfrew Airport. A new footbridge was constructed in 2014 linking the Arkleston area with the Hillington Industrial Estate, replacing an original structure which was severely damaged by an over-height vehicle. Glasgow style sign gantries were added to the route in 1994 as part of an expansion of the Strathclyde Region CITRAC system.
At Junction 27 the road turns north westwards, passing south of Glasgow Airport which opened in May 1966. The White Cart Water is crossed by the 800m long, 25m high multi-span White Cart Viaduct. It was built high above the water level to allow access to Paisley Harbour, a harbour that had closed by the time the motorway was completed. The viaduct was extensively refurbished during the early 2000s, with strengthening required due to the amount of traffic using it. The viaduct is three lanes wide with no hard shoulders and stunning views of the southern highlands can be enjoyed on clear days. The speed limit reduces initially to 60mph over the viaduct, then further still to 50mph.
From Junction 28 (Glasgow Airport) to Junction 29 (St. James Interchange) the motorway is considerably changed from its original design. In the early 1990s, severe congestion at St. James roundabout led to the construction of two free flow flyovers to provide links with the A737. The project cost over £30 million and created two iconic M8 features in the process. They were completed in August 1993, with works including the installation of sign gantries and revised access to Glasgow Airport. The motorway reduces to two lanes wide with hard shoulders as it passes beneath St. James Roundabout, with the speed limit returning to 70mph. From here the motorway regains its rural characteristics, with no street lighting or overhead signage provided.
After Junction 29 the motorway passes the western end of the Glasgow Airport runway and travels parallel to the main Greenock railway line. Construction is currently underway on a new junction, 29a, to serve the town of Bishopton. This junction will have east-facing slip roads only and is being constructed by the developer behind the Bishopton Ordnance site redevelopment. Approximately half a mile west, Junction 30 (Craigton) provides direct access to the M898 and the Erskine Bridge. On approach to Junction 31 (West Ferry), excellent views of the Firth of Clyde are enjoyed on what is the quietest section of the entire route. On passing the westbound off slip the route becomes classified as A8 as it continues its journey towards Greenock. Constructed as Stages 1 and 2 of the Bishopton Bypass, this section was completed as far as Junction 30 in 1970, and Junction 31 in 1975.
At Junction 18 (Charing Cross) the motorway reduces temporarily to two lanes in each direction. This bottleneck severely limits the capacity of the M8 through the city centre and contributes to the congestion which has been present since the summer of 1980. Turning southwards, the road proceeds through Charing Cross in cutting, passing beneath Sauchiehall Street in an underpass. The road passes the Mitchell Library and under several other streets, still with only two lanes for through traffic. After passing Junction 19 (Anderston) and a connection the Clydeside Expressway, the road rises as it approaches the iconic Kingston Bridge. The structure, which is ten lanes wide, is one of the busiest urban road crossings in Europe and is used by over 150,000 vehicles every week day. The Charing Cross section of the motorway, completed in early 1972, was the most controversial of all the M8 projects completed. Several thousand homes, in varying states, were demolished for the Comprehensive Development Areas, of which the Inner Ring Road was a key part. The Kingston Bridge has been extensively refurbished since the mid-1990s, with some slip roads reconstructed and the main bridge strengthened. Incomplete slip roads at Junction 20 (Tradeston) are a visible reminder of the intended connection to the unbuilt South Flank of the Inner Ring Road.
After Junction 20, the motorway sweeps westwards, skirting between Scotland Street and Tradeston. The section from here to Junction 26 (Hillington) was constructed in two concurrent stages as the Renfrew Motorway from 1973 to 1976. The Stage 1 contract, which extended to Junction 24 (Helen Street), is most famous for its braided carriageways. Here, 16 lanes of traffic provide connections between the M8, M74 and M77 motorways. It was designed to reduce weaving traffic and improve safety. It remains the second widest stretch of motorway in the UK, beaten only by the M60/M61 Interchange in Manchester. The connection with the M74 was completed in 2011, slightly west of the originally planned link with the South Flank of the Inner Ring Road.
Another key feature of this section is the Scotland Street Viaduct, provided to cross the now closed railway line to General Terminus Quay. At Junction 22 (Plantation), the M77 heads south via two curved ramps. The number of traffic lanes reduces to four lanes with intermittent hard shoulder in each direction. At Junction 23 (Ibrox) traffic from the M74 finally merges with the M8 mainline. Access to the junction is restricted to M74 traffic only for safety and weaving reasons. From Junction 24 the speed limit increases to 70mph. Stage 2 of the Renfrew Motorway extended from Helen Street to Hillington, with a major interchange provided at the A739 Clyde Tunnel Expressway at Junction 25 (Cardonald). The road varies in width from three to four lanes wide with hard shoulders as far as Junction 26. At Junction 25 some slip roads are particularly wide or have large dead areas. This is a visible reminder of the intended connection with the South Link Motorway, a route that would have provided connections to the south of the city, as well as east to south movements to the M77 from the M8. Junction 25a (Braehead) was constructed in 1998 to serve the new shopping centre and industrial development. A two-lane spur leaves the motorway and ends on a signalised junction adjacent to the shopping centre main car park. In recent years, congestion has become a major problem on this part of the route with peak time delays experienced on most weekdays.
The Scottish Government or Transport Scotland do not currently have any major commitments relating to the M8 motorway. Proposals for a widening of the route to three lanes between Edinburgh and Newhouse have not been discussed for some time, and reports published some years ago appeared to dismiss any benefits gained from the introduction of “Smart” or “Active” Motorways.
It is our view, given continued traffic growth, that some action will be required in the next decade to alleviate peak time congestion. Low cost proposals could include the introduction of HGV overtaking bans (as used in England), the provision of a climbing lane in each direction between Junctions 3 and 4 and the addition of a lane westbound between Junctions 2 and 3. Through Glasgow, changes to lane layouts and restricting some access could provide benefit. The provision of an additional lane between Junctions 26 & 27 and 29 & 30 would alleviate congestion caused by joining/weaving traffic in these areas.
Higher cost options would probably include the provision of an additional lane in each direction between Junctions 2 and 6 – this could be extended to Junction 1 given the structures were designed for this. Changes to the layout at Hermiston Gait to provide free flow connections could be added as part of improvements to the Edinburgh City Bypass.
Extensive maintenance of the Inner Ring Road sections in Glasgow is likely to be required in the next decade as it approaches mid-life. This could include bridge works, retaining wall panel replacements and the like.