Matheson hits back at ‘betrayal’ claims over axed Glasgow Airport rail link

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson hit back at Tory and Labour claims that the Scottish Government has “betrayed” people in Glasgow after plans for a rail link to the city’s airport were ditched for a second time.

Mr Matheson insisted pressing ahead with plans for either a tram or train link from the centre of Glasgow to the airport would have a “detrimental impact” on other rail services in the west of Scotland.

Ministers had originally ditched proposals for a rail link in 2009.

The scheme was then resurrected as part of the £1 billion-plus Glasgow City Region Deal, which was signed in 2014.

Mr Matheson confirmed to MSPs that leading figures in the City Region Deal will soon be asked to approve work on alternative plans, which could see a shuttle pod system built to run between the airport and nearby Paisley Gilmour Street rail station.

But Labour MSP Colin Smyth insisted this was a “second rate option”.

He hit out: “This is the second time the SNP have axed plans for a rail link to Glasgow Airport, and yet another betrayal of the people of Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

“The city of Glasgow continues to grow, Glasgow Airport continues to grow, but so too does the utter lack of ambition by this SNP Government and the SNP leadership in Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils.”

Adam Tomkins, Conservative MSP for Glasgow, also hit out at the Scottish Government, saying: “Anyone who cares about the economic growth of Glasgow would see immediately that Glasgow needs a direct rail link to its airport, yet the SNP are cancelling such a plan for the second time in a decade.

“This is nothing less than a betrayal of Glasgow.”

He added that the decision shows SNP ministers “could not care less about Glasgow’s future economic prosperity”.

Fellow Tory MSP Jamie Greene noted that the alternative proposal “only connects the airport to Paisley”.

He added that this “surely flies in the face of the spirit of the intention of the city deal to connect Glasgow Airport and Glasgow city centre itself”.

But Mr Matheson said: “The Tories know much more about betraying the people of Scotland and in particular the people of Glasgow than anybody else in this chamber.”

He argued that services to and from Glasgow Central station would suffer if a new rail link was installed – adding that this could result in the loss of thousands of seats during peak periods.

Mr Matheson said: “Analysis has shown that to accommodate tram/train services at the airport, performance on the wider rail network would be negatively impacted and require either the reduction of current rail services to and from Ayrshire and Inverclyde, or the deferral of future service enhancements, and/or significant high-cost infrastructure in and around Glasgow Central.”

The Transport Secretary added: “We cannot ignore the fact that a tram/train option would have a detrimental impact on the network and has many real and potentially insurmountable challenges.”

He told MSPs that the leaders of Glasgow and Renfrewshire councils had “recognised that current and future rail services should not be compromised and that the case for tram/train set out in the original outline business case was not robust in this regard”.

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