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The M74 Motorway




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Glasgow Motorway Timeline

A Highway Plan for Glasgow

Glasgow Motorway Myths

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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.

There are a number of myths about the Glasgow motorway system. On this page we get to the facts.

The M74 is one the most important routes in Scotland, providing a direct link between Glasgow and the rest of the UK. It carries several thousand vehicles every day. Construction of the first section of M74 began in 1964, with the commencement of works on the Larkhall-Hamilton-Uddingston Bypass. By 1999 the motorway stretched all the way to Gretna. To the north, extensions of the motorway beyond its initial Maryville terminus were incorporated into the Glasgow Highway Plan and the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study. These plans envisaged the M74 as part of a second motorway across the city. Further changes led to the route corridor we have today.


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 northern part of the route from Kingston (J1) to Abington (J14). For specific details on each construction contract click on the links in the table below. These are listed by name, with current junction numbers provided for clarity.


Route Map

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The A74 trunk road had acted as the primary route from central Scotland to England for over a century. From the early 1950s significant works were undertaken to improve the rural sections between Lesmahagow and the Scottish Border, and by 1960 much of the work to provide dual carriageway were complete. The urban sections, which cut through the towns of Larkhall, Hamilton, Bothwell and Uddingston, remained as a single carriageway, and was completely inadequate for the volume and type of traffic using it.


A bypass of these towns had been considered since at least the early 1950s, with the MoT publishing orders several times detailing a new special road through the Clyde Valley. As is often the case in British roads planning there was a delay. County Surveyor Col TU Wilson completed a full review of the county's roads in 1951, expanding on those outlined in the Clyde Valley Plan.


Planning took a considerable step forward in 1960 when Lanarkshire County Council, with support from the Scottish Development Department (SDD), commissioned a full-scale traffic survey centred on the Hamilton area. Its purpose: to identify possible solutions to the worsening congestion problem. It was found that around 20,000 vehicles per day were travelling through Hamilton and this was expected to increase to around 65,000 by 1980. The construction of a "Special Road" was therefore recommended on a line through the Clyde Valley to the north of all four towns. This route would be made up of two and three lane carriageways built to rural motorway standards and tie in with the dual carriageway sections of A74 at Calderpark in the north and Draffan in the south. Shortly after the traffic survey was completed, engineering consultant Babtie Shaw and Morton was appointed as project designer.


Construction began 1963, with Stage 1 (Hamilton to Draffan) opening on December 2nd, 1966. Stage 2A (Hamilton to Raith) opened in May 1968, followed by 2B (Raith to Maryville) in August 1968.  The Scottish Office provided a 75% grant towards the project.


A continuation of the route northwards was included within a Highway Plan for Glasgow. It was intended that this section, named the Hamilton Motorway, would connect with the East Flank of the Glasgow Inner Ring Road. Protests, and years of political wrangling, resulted in the plans being revised and a route corridor parallel to the West Coast Railway Line being adopted as an alternative. The first northern extension was completed in early 1995, with the second, more complex M74 Completion scheme following in 2011.


The success of the Hamilton Bypass almost immediately resulted in calls for further upgrades of the A74 to motorway. By the early 1970s, plans were developed to extend the motorway southwards from Draffan to Millbank, bypassing Lesmahagow (its second bypass in only 40 years). Two construction contracts were eventually let, Draffan to Douglas, completed in October 1986 and Douglas to Millbank, opening in November 1987. These were constructed as dual two-lane motorway.


In 1987, the Scottish Office confirmed that all remaining sections of A74 would be upgraded to motorway. Three design contracts were let, to Babtie, Shaw & Morton, Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and W.A. Fairhurst. The scheme was “fast tracked” with route selection, contract preparation and detailed design being undertaken simultaneously. The first contract taken forward in this way, from Millbank to Nether Abington, opened only four years later in November 1991. The fast pace continued, and by 1999 the entire route from Millbank to the Scottish Border had been upgraded to dual three-lane motorway. Many schemes won civil engineering awards for their innovation and design.


For details on each scheme, see the contract list below.

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M74 Contract Titles & Articles

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Contract Title


M8 Kingston to Fullarton Road

Maryville to Fullarton Road

Maryville to Raith

Raith to Hamilton

Hamilton to Draffan

Draffan to Poniel

Poniel to Millbank

Millbank to Nether Abington

Nether Abington to Elvanfoot

Elvanfoot to Paddy's Rickle*

Paddy's Rickle to Harthope*

Harthope to Middlegill*

Middlegill to Beattock*

Beattock to St. Ann's

St Ann's to Dinwoodie Green*

Dinwoodie Green to Muirhouse*

Muirhouse to Water of Milk*

Water of Milk to Ecclefechan*


Ecclefechan to Eaglesfield*

Eaglesfield to Kirkpatrick Fleming*

Kirkpatrick Fleming to Gretna*

1 - 2A

2A - 3A

4 - 5

5 - 6

6 - 9

9 - 11

11 -12

12 - 13

13 - 14

14 - 15

14 - 15

14 - 15

14 - 15

15 - 16

15 - 16

16 - 17

17 - 18

17 - 19


19 - 20

21 - 22

21 - 22

Completion Date

Jacobs/Atkins & M74JV

Strathclyde Region & Lilley (Replaced by Kier)

Babtie Shaw & Morton & Tarmac  ConstructionBabtie Shaw & Morton & Tarmac  Construction

Babtie Shaw & Morton & Christiani Shand

Strathclyde Region & Monk/Norwest Hols

Strathclyde Region & Whatlings/McAlpine

Kirkpatrick & Partners & Balfour Beatty

Kirkpatrick & Partners & Christiani/Morrison JV

WA Fairhurst & Nuttall/Levack JV

WA Fairhurst& Autolink PLC

WA Fairhurst & Autolink PLC

WA Fairhurst & Autolink PLC

Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Autolink PLC

Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Barr Construction

Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Balfour Beatty

Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Miller Civil Engineering

Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Balfour Beatty

Babtie Shaw & Morton & Miller Civil Engineering

Babtie Shaw & Morton & Morrison

Babtie Shaw & Morton & Castelli Girola UK/Morrison

Babtie Shaw & Morton & Shanks & McEwan

28th June 2011

January 1995

2nd August 1968

3rd May 1968

2nd December 1966

27th October 1986

November 1987

29th November 1991

3rd December 1993

21st August 1992

30th April 1999

30th April 1999

30th April 1999

30th April 1999

11th December 1994

22nd September 1994

22nd September 1994

22nd September 1994

22nd September 1994

24th November 1995

24th November 1995

19th December 1992

Click contract title to view article

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Designer & Contractor

NOTE: Contracts marked with * are currently outside the Glasgow Motorway Archive area of interest and do not have specific articles.