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M74 Completion (2018)

Following local government reorganisation in April 1996, the newly formed Glasgow City and South Lanarkshire Councils continued to lobby for construction of the scheme. By this stage minor alterations had been made to the proposal which removed connections with the Kingston Bridge and junctions with Cathcart Road and Glasgow Road. Contrary to press reports at the time the Strategic Roads Review, the findings of which were made public in November 1999, did not cancel the scheme but referred it back to local authorities for further development.


Following intense lobbying by Labour councillors, the scheme was fully adopted by the Scottish Executive in 2001. Glasgow, South Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Councils would contribute £20 million (over £31 million in 2017) to the scheme which was then estimated at cost of £250-300 million (£385-465 million in 2017). In May 2002 design on the scheme began and it was revealed that the route would be no wider than 3 lanes in each direction. Around the same time a website and public consultation were launched and the scheme name was changed from M74 Northern Extension to M74 Completion in an attempt to make it sound more appealing to locals. Glasgow City Council would remain the lead partner in the project.


Very little modification was made to the accepted line of the route as determined by Strathclyde Region, except in the Polmadie area where it was altered to avoid the main west coast rail line depot. Extensive ground condition surveys were conducted in an attempt to determine the severity of contamination from decades of heavy industry, and a land acquisition process commenced.


Draft orders were published in March 2003 which received over 40 statutory and 300 individual objections. In June 2003 it was announced that a public local inquiry (PLI) would sit in Glasgow to consider the objections and provide a report and recommendation to the Scottish Executive.


By this stage a number of opposition groups had been set up to protest against the road – namely Joint Action against the M74 (JAM74). This organisation was set up by residents living adjacent to the line of the road and environmentalists with support from left wing politicians in the Scottish Socialist and Scottish Green Parties. They advocated a cancellation of the scheme with a reallocation of its budget to public transport schemes. The group gained a considerable public forum in May 2003 when the Socialists and Greens made significant gains in the Scottish Parliamentary election.



The PLI, chaired by Richard Hickman, commenced to much fanfare during December 2003, with protestors turning up on the first day dressed in pantomime costumes. They believed the PLI to be nothing more than a PR exercise – although they did take the opportunity to make serious contributions with a number of well known environmentalists and campaigners speaking on their behalf. The inquiry concluded in early 2004 with a report and recommendation provided to the Executive in the summer. In late March 2005 after months of silence it was announced that the road orders were to be confirmed and the scheme constructed. The findings and recommendation of the reporter were also made public – controversially Hickman had recommended that the scheme not proceed due to adverse environmental and social effects. It was also said that the scheme would do little to alleviate traffic congestion in the long term. The Executive rejected his view (which it was entitled to do under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984), confirming the fears of the objectors that the entire consultation process was a sham. Pro-M74 opposition parties, such as the Scottish Conservatives, panned the Executive for sitting on the recommendation for months. During the statutory six week objection period JAM74, in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES), lodged an appeal against the confirmed road orders at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. This would delay the scheme by at least twelve months and put a halt to the tender process.


During this delay it was decided to procure the scheme as a single construction contract rather than the several smaller contracts that had been previously advertised. It was announced in February 2006 that the case would be heard by Judges during late June. A protest against the supposed health impacts of the scheme was held outside the headquarters of Transport Scotland (the new agency set up to oversee transport in Scotland in January 2006) during May 2006 with a petition signed by over 20 health experts and GPs handed to the agency. For several weeks protest groups launched new websites, took out adverts on billboards and organised a variety of fundraising events to help them raise the estimated £30,000 required to continue with court action.


The case eventually began on the 27th June amidst a media frenzy, only to be dropped the following day when judges indicated they would not be accepting the basis of the appeal. Tens of millions of pounds had potentially been added to the cost of the project by legal action which had lasted only a few hours. The scheme’s last major planning obstacle had been overcome and the tender for construction could now begin.    

Like many modern urban road projects, the proposals to extend the M74 into Glasgow were met with strong opposition. Objectors consisting of both local and environmental campaign groups were determined to prevent the construction of a road of this scale through an urban area. Opposition to the scheme began almost as soon as Strathclyde Regional Council announced plans to complete the route in the late 1980s.


Local groups such as No to the M74 and JAM74 joined forces with international organisations such as Friends of the Earth to use the planning system to their advantage in the hope of halting the scheme completely. Groups such as JAM74 were formed out of the direct action campaign against the construction of the M77 around Pollok Park - high profile members of each included former Socialist MSP Rosie Kane. The key message of their campaign was to highlight that the areas affected by the road suffered from high levels of deprivation and exceptionally low levels of car ownership. The group advocated spending the scheme's budget on public transport. JAM74 in particular organised successful community events, such as a flower bed adjacent to the proposed route near Eglinton Toll - these events helped to raise money for the campaign.


There is no doubt that their objections resulted in a considerable delay to the project during the statutory process. By having individual members submit official objections (there were over 300), making statutory objections which resulted in a public local inquiry (there were over 40 of these) and then by making detailed submissions to the inquiry through the use of expert witnesses, they appeared very well organised. Their tactics reached a peak in 2005 when an appeal to the road orders was made to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. This appeal was withdrawn in June 2006. Although ultimately unsuccessful in preventing construction of the road, the groups delayed the commencement of construction works by around three years.


It is often argued that the protestors "won" their case by convincing the public inquiry to recommend that the road not be built.  It was widely anticipated that the groups would organise direct action against construction of the road when it got underway but this failed to materialise. The construction phase was completed without incident.

The tender process began in late 2006 with the announcement that a joint venture entitled Interlink M74, consisting of four of the UK’s largest construction firms (Balfour Beatty, Morgan Est, Morrison & Sir Robert McAlpine) would bid for the works. Complaints were raised by some objectors that this was anti-competitive under EU procurement law. However this was rejected, as independent auditors were being employed to assess the tender and provide detailed cost comparisons. New fears regarding the future of the project were raised following the election of the SNP Scottish Government in May 2007. For some weeks during September and October 2007 it was reported by the press and opposition politicians that the scheme would be scrapped to gain Green Party support in order to get their Budget Bill through parliament. No such threat of cancellation materialised and when it was announced that Glasgow had won its bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014, construction appeared certain. The project was given formal support by the new government during the budget statement to parliament later that month.

Given that part of the road would be passing close to urban areas, the Scottish Executive published several documents as environmental and ground investigation studies were completed.


These sought to allay the fears of nearby residents that the environment or their health would suffer due to the new road.

In late 2001 an agreement was signed between the Scottish Executive and Glasgow City, South Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Councils to build the road. The Executive was put under pressure by business groups, political parties and others to provide funding for the route to alleviate M8 congestion.


The following key details were agreed between the Executive and the local authorities:


1. That the new road would have junctions at Kingston (although not to the eastbound M8), Polmadie Road, Cambuslang Road and Fullarton. Further junctions were ruled out due to weaving concerns.


2. The road would be three lanes wide with hard shoulders along its entire length.


3. The three local authorities would contribute £20million (over £31 million in 2017) towards the cost of the scheme (mainly to cover the cost of junctions) and the Scottish Executive the rest.


4. Private funding would be considered.  This was ultimately rejected due to the short length of the route.


In 2003 it was estimated that the road would cost in the region of £250million (£385 million in 2017), remove around 25,000 vehicles per day from the Kingston Bridge and be open to traffic by 2008.

The M74 Completion

On 28th June 2011, the most anticipated section of motorway to be built in the UK for well over a decade opened to traffic. At a cost of almost £700 million, the five mile long M74 Completion project was one of the most expensive roads ever built in Scotland.


The road provided a much needed route through the south of Glasgow, diverting thousands of vehicles a day away from the desperately congested Charing Cross and Kingston Bridge sections of M8. Initial development on a motorway around the South of the city centre began in 1960 and this page provides a guide to a project that looked set to be cancelled on very many occasions.

Last Updated: 14th April 2018  


Key Facts & Figures

LOCATION:   M74 J1-2A - Glasgow/South Lanarkshire



OPENING DATE:   28th June 2011


PROMOTED BY: Scottish Executive/Transport Scotland

ENGINEER: Glasgow City Council

DESIGNER:   Jacobs/Atkins

CONTRACTOR:   Interlink M74 JV


LENGTH:   5 miles

TOTAL SCHEME COST:   £692 Million (£802 million in 2017 prices)


MISC:   Interlink M74JV was made up of the following contractors: Balfour Beatty, Morgan Est, Morrison and Sir Robert McAlpine


A “Highway Plan for Glasgow”, published by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick in 1965, recommended an inner ring road for Glasgow City Centre with a series of radial routes meeting it at each corner. A route was proposed, entitled the “Hamilton Motorway” that would connect the south eastern corner of the ring road to the M74 Larkhall – Hamilton – Uddingston Bypass. This route was planned to run roughly parallel to the A74 trunk road before branching off through Glasgow Green and meeting the East Flank of the ring road in the vicinity of Saltmarket. The road was intended to cater for the majority of traffic wishing to travel from west to south through the Glasgow area. The M8 Monkland Motorway would be the primary route for west to east movements (See image opposite).    


Throughout the 1970s opposition to the completion of the ring road grew, particularly due to the effect on the Charing Cross area of the North and West Flanks of the ring. Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick (SWK) working on behalf of the newly formed Strathclyde Regional Council (SRC) carried out various studies into an acceptable and more environmentally friendly version of the ring road that would involve tunnels and cuttings. One major obstacle was the proposed interchange between the M74 and the East Flank within Glasgow Green. Their efforts proved fruitless and SRC abandoned plans for the remainder of the ring road in 1980.


It was clear that the original Highway Plan would not be implemented due to growing political and public opposition. In 1981 SRC began to consider alternative routes for connections around the South of the city centre. It was accepted by SRC that traffic movements in these directions needed to be catered for due to a lack of good existing surface streets and the first signs of congestion on the relatively new M8. Indeed, specific mention was made to the need for such a route in the first Regional Structure Plan. During initial development of the Highway Plan, SWK had investigated a route for the “Hamilton Motorway/South Flank” that ran parallel to the West Coast Railway Line. A connection to the East Flank of the ring road would have been provided on the route which would have joined with the West Flank (M8) in the Kingston/Carnoustie Street area as planned.


Glasgow Corporation was unconvinced and asked SWK to work solely within the rough plans for the ring road made in the Bruce Report of 1945. On being re-appointed by SRC, SWK immediately returned to investigate this route, which although still located in an urban area, would benefit from being close to the busy railway line. This would reduce severance and allow utilisation of abandoned industrial sites. In the interim SRC (with the support of the Scottish Office) would continue to push forward with plans for an initial extension of the M74 from Maryville to Fullarton/Mount Vernon. The alignment of this part of the route was laid out in the Highway Plan, but expanded upon by the “Greater Glasgow Transportation Study” of 1967. There was little public objection to this scheme as it would alleviate problems on the A74 London Road. Construction was originally programmed to begin during 1981/82 but spending cuts by the incoming Thatcher government meant the route did not open until 1994.


Throughout the 1980s SRC continued to develop proposals for the completion of the final section of the route. This project was considered alongside such proposals as the “Clyde Twin Bridges” and the “Townhead to London Road Link” which were eventually cancelled in 1994. SRC had chosen a line for the motorway that would diverge from the phase 1 extension at Fullarton, before proceeding south westwards until it reached the West coast rail line. From here the route would parallel the railway until Cathcart Road where it would curve to the North West and proceed on viaduct across several surface streets, including Pollokshaws Road, before meeting the M8 at the South Side of the Kingston Bridge. The route first appeared in official publications from the Council around 1988, including the Regional Structure Plan.


As with the majority of roads schemes at the time, initial design work was to be completed by the internal SRC Roads Department. This was carried out almost simultaneously with design work on the extension to Fullarton Road. The scheme was granted planning permission by Glasgow City Council in October 1995.



In April 1993 Strathclyde Region appointed consultants Arup to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment into the proposed scheme. A multi volume report was published along with a video for the public. The report provided detail of the expected environmental impacts of the scheme - which would include increased noise and an adverse effect on air quality in areas around North Toryglen and Govanhill. Based on this scheme, it was envisaged that two churches, seven listed buildings, 100 commercial and 27 residential properties would have to be demolished. Further public consultations were held in 1995, prior to the granting of planning permission that October. The report was one of the first carried out on a major urban road proposal in the UK.

History, Background & Route Development

In the early 1990s Strathclyde Region Roads Department prepared an outline design for the completion of the road between Fullarton and Kingston.


The plans opposite, which have been donated to the Glasgow Motorway Archive, provide an illustration of what the Strathclyde scheme would have looked like if constructed.


CLICK the images to enlarge.

Detailed Development & Consultation

Scottish Executive Publications

Vocal Opposition & Protests

A number of vocal protest groups were set up with the aim of stopping the road. They funded billboard advertisements like that above. The Scottish Executive created a project website that sought to provide details on timescales, construction methods and findings from environmental reports.

Tender Process, New Doubts & Commonwealth Boost

Strathclyde Region Proposals

The 2001 Agreement

Construction finally began on 28th May 2008 with a groundbreaking ceremony carried out adjacent to Fullarton Road. Within a few months a busy construction site developed and hundreds of Interlink M74JV vehicles could be seen throughout the works area. The project was the biggest in Scotland at the time and, given its location, very easy to watch as it developed. The majority of 2008 was spent on piling operations and earthworks.


By 2009 progress was obvious with the following milestones:

  • January - Paisley Road On-slip and Quay Road realignment works completed.

  • February - Work begins on Kingston Viaducts which will cross the M8.

  • March - First beams lifted into place at Farmeloan Underbridge. Work commences on Port Eglinton Viaduct near West Street.

  • April - All main earthworks completed.

  • July - Kingston eastbound viaduct beams lifted into place. Farmeloan Underbridge becomes first bridge completed.

  • August - Progress advanced at Fullarton Road bridges.

  • September - First Port Eglinton Viaduct beams lifted into position.

  • October - Glasgow Road Underbridge beams lifted into position. Existing overhead gantry at Fullarton Road removed.


Swift progress continued throughout 2010:

  • January - The launch of the westbound Port Eglinton Viaduct is completed. (See video opposite).

  • February - The beams at Polmadie Road Underbridge are lifted into position.

  • April - M8 link viaducts completed.

  • May - Rutherglen Station Viaduct beams lifted into position. (See video opposite)

  • June - Beams for Auchenshuggle Bridge over the River Clyde lifted into position. Port Eglinton eastbound launch completed. M8 gantry alterations begin.

  • August - Surfacing commences.

  • September - It is announced that the route will open in June 2011.

  • October - Installation of lighting columns commences.

  • November - Gantry erection commences.


Early 2011 saw all major elements completed and the final road take shape:

  • January - Auchenshuggle Bridge over the River Clyde completed.

  • April - Gantry works completed.

  • March - Central reserve completed.

  • May - Cathcart Road Overbridge completed.

  • June - The road opened to traffic at 19:30 on 28th June 2011.


The project included many civil engineering challenges, including the launch of the Port Eglinton Viaduct over the West Coast Mainline and working adjacent to the busy M8 at Kingston. The scheme was the first new urban motorway constructed in the UK for decades and most agree it was a complete success. It was completed on budget and slightly ahead of schedule despite the harsh winters of 2009 and 2010.


The completed project had an instant impact on traffic flows with several thousand removed from the busiest sections of M8 at peak times. Local routes in the southside of Glasgow also saw reduced traffic flows in double digit percentage figures with roads, such as Rutherglen High Street seeing large falls contributing to the local urban realm improvement. For several weeks during the summer holiday period there was virtually no congestion on the M8 at all. As traffic returned to normal in September, it was clear that the route would have a permanent impact with congestion on the westbound M8 cut by several miles. Some changes were noted to the west of the city where the M8 between junctions 22 and 25 became noticeably busier. This had been expected and the hardshoulders had been converted to running lanes in advance of the scheme opening. Traffic on the M77 between Plantation (J22) and Dumbreck Road (J1) also increased and there has been some congestion on this stretch as a result.


By 2013 over 25,000 vehicles had been removed from the Inner Ring Road section of the M8, with an average of 65,000 using the M74. Traffic on the Renfrew Motorway section between junctions 22 and 25 had increased by more than 10,000 vehicles per day. Flows on south side surface streets remain considerably lower than before the route opened.


In the five years since the road was completed it has performed very well. In mid-2015 some ground stabilisation works were undertaken beneath the carriageway at Polmadie but this has been the only major issue. In our view, the high cost was worthwhile, given the benefits of traffic redistribution and the provision of an alternative motorway route across the city.

Construction Begins, Route Open & Performance Review

Construction Videos

Special thanks to Interlink M74 JV, Merson Signs and Glasgow City Council for many site visits during the construction phase of the project.


Thanks also to Glasgow City Council for archive drawings and information on Strathclyde Regional Council's ideas.


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Also In This Section

M74 Motorway Index

M74 Hamilton Bypass

Inner Ring Road - South & East Flanks

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The first section of M74 constructed. Completed in three stages between 1966 and 1968.

Stretching from Glasgow to the border, the M74 is one of Scotland's most important roads.

The South & East Flanks of the IRR proved controversial from the outset and were ultimately cancelled.

History Quick Links

Glasgow Motorway Timeline

A Highway Plan for Glasgow

History Index

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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.

The history of Glasgow’s network of motorways and dual carriageways can be traced back to the 1940s. The History page provides all the details.