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The report was commissioned in 1960 following the quinquennial review of the city's development plan, with a view of providing a definitive design for the long discussed Inner Ring Road. The scope of the exercise was widened in 1961 to include traffic studies and a highway plan for the entire city. An outline design for the Ring Road was published in 1962 with the remaining plan agreed in 1963. In all 48 miles of motorways and 8 miles of all purpose roads were recommended within the city boundary with a target completion of 1990. It was later superseded by the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study, published in 1967.


The Highway Plan should be considered a document of historic significance in Scottish roads planning - it is both comprehensive in its coverage and clear in its presentation. It not only outlined where the proposed routes should go but provided detailed designs on types of roads never before built in the UK. A number of other UK cities followed Glasgow's urban motorway  plans with interest and published  their own reports soon after.


The Corporation laid out three requirements in the written statement of its quinquennial review. Firstly that a ring road around the city would be essential to cope with current & future traffic flows, secondly that it should be of motorway standard and thirdly that it should be completed within 10 years. The same report outlined a number of Comprehensive Development Areas (CDAs) around the city that were earmarked for complete redevelopment. The ring road design would require to take these into consideration so as to allow the various CDA plans to be developed. Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick (SWK) began work in the summer of 1960 with a small team lead by Roy Hodgen from an office on Glasgow's High Street.


SWK advised the Corporation that no British traffic consultants had any experience in traffic planning or urban road design. Henry Grace (a senior SWK partner) recommended the use of an American partner who SWK had previously worked with and offered to split the costs. The Corporation accepted their generous offer. The Glasgow plan was among the first in Britain, if not Europe, to be undertaken although the SELNEC (South East Lancashire North East Cheshire) study in England began around the same time. To gain a better understanding of urban motorways a group of 12 from the Scottish Office, New Towns and Glasgow Corporation made a visit to the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. SWK undertook a similar exercise making visits to both the USA and Europe. This had quite an impact on the study. Firstly it was found that the design of American Highways was superior to those in Europe, and secondly that those in Europe were more aesthetically pleasing. The Glasgow plans would incorporate the best of both!


SWK proceeded to design a network capable of carrying the projected traffic flows of 1990. It was also decided that new roads would not follow the line of any existing routes and that they would avoid the central area while still providing sufficient access. Consideration was also given to selective street closures, particularly along busy routes such as Great Western Road to keep traffic away from housing areas.

With special thanks to:


John M Cullen

The Mitchell Library

Paisley Campus of the University of the West of Scotland.



Highway Plan (1965)

Glasgows Motorways: A History (2009)

The image opposite shows the alternative routes for the ring road considered in the early design stages. Alternative routes are in dashed lines and CDA boundaries are in red. The north and south flanks were finalised fairly easily. (Click to enlarge).



The photgraph on the far left shows a Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick traffic survey being undertaken with police assistance in 1961. The photgraph was taken in the Townhead area. Such surveys were an important part in the creation of the Highway Plan.

The plan contained a number of excellent artists impressions by Alexander Duncan Bell. He was a prominent Scottish landscape artist who contributed to various SWK reports. The images assisted in ensuring that the recommendations of the plan could be understood by all.

The images opposite show the recommended proposal for the Inner Ring Road and wider Highway Plan.


A few changes were made prior to construction. On the north flank a small loop adjacent to the Maryhill Motorway was removed to reduce weaving conflicts. On the Renfrew Motorway a proposal to tunnel beneath Bellahouston Park was discarded


The entire plan was superseded by the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study in 1967. The east and south flanks of the Ring Road were cancelled by Strathclyde Regional Council in 1980.

A Highway Plan for Glasgow

"A Highway Plan for Glasgow" was published in 1965 by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners on behalf of the Corporation of the City of Glasgow. Coming in at over 200 pages and accompanied by fold out maps, beautiful illustrations and clear diagrams, the report formed the basis of plans for routes such as the M8 and M77.


We will consider this document and its importance over a number of pages. This page considers the preparation and recommendations of the plan. Part 2 will look at the document with scans and clips of  a number of pages. Part 3 will consider the plans legacy and its importance in Scottish transport planning.  

Last Updated: 04th July 2015

Highway Plan

Traffic Studies & Initial Proposals

Traffic flows on the ring road were forecast to be in excess of 100,000 per day - a three fold increase on 1960 levels. This coupled with space contraints and a need for regular junctions ensured a significantly different approach to traffic planning would be required. A rough line for the ring road was chosen using the previous Bruce and Abercrombie reports as a guide. Before a detailed design was started a series of traffic surveys and studies were undertaken. A "cordon" surrounding the city centre was put in place and all vehicles entering and leaving were stopped and interviewed (see image below). The results were collated by retired Post Office workers and sent to IBM who produced tables  of present day traffic flows. Initially the only IBM computer equipped with the necessary software was based in Washington DC - by the later stages of the study SWK had acquired one. The computer data supplied by IBM was found to be broadly similar to actual observed traffic flows which gave the SWK team confidence in it its other findings. With traffic flows projected SWK set about selecting a final line and detailed design for the ring road. A number of alternative lines were considered and rejected at this stage - some of those can be seen below.


The traffic analysis stage had identified the need for several new routes in addition to the ring road. Corridors were selected for each of these and they are identified below. The detailed design stage began on the ring road and the additional routes almost simultaneously. The SWK team agreed on a number of factors including that the ring road would be designed for a max speed of 50mph and that curves/loops would have a radius of no less than 75 feet. The road design borrowed heavilly from accepted American Freeway standards due to the fact a number of the team had spent time there and a lack of UK codes of pratice. John Cullen says "the most useful [American guide] was A Policy on Arterial Highways in Urban Areas published by the AASHO in 1957".1/2500 OS and aerial maps were used as a template in the route selection and design stages and proved a cost effective measure. The team also made use of railway curve templates, and were among the first in the UK to define vertical curves by their "K" value. Gradients were also rounded for simplicity. These are standard practices in highway link design today.


As the ring road design progressed a number of large scale models were constructed for both the testing of layouts and public display. Traffic weaving issues on the north flank section resulted in a need for "wrong side" access slips - a feature common in the USA. It was also determined that large sections of the north, south and west flanks of the road would require to be elevated. Hardshoulders were minimal to reduce costs. For the radial routes a mixture of urban, semi-urban and rural design standards were adopted with speeds of up to 70mph. (See individual scheme pages for details.)


The illustrator Alexander Duncan Bell was commissioned to provide "views" of various parts of the ring road to provide an impression of how it would look. A number of these can be seen opposite. Tables detailing traffic flows, costs and potential accident reduction data were compiled and inserted into the report as justification for the construction of all sections.It became clear that several million pounds would be required to complete the proposed plan. As a result staging of works would be essential. Stages (Targets) were developed using the following principles: Firstly, priority was given to areas with congestion, secondly that work should proceed outward from the city centre, thirdly that they should connect with proposed routes outside the city boundary and finally that the CDAs be an integral part. Target 1 outlined an east-west motorway across the city connecting with proposed routes on either end. The north and west flanks of the ring road were an intermediate target within of this. Target 1 also included the Clydeside Expressway (see below).

Study Proposals & Recommendations

The finalised ring road design was accepted by the Corporation in 1962. The Interim Report was published in December that year. Proposals for the remainder of the city were accepted in 1963 although it was mid-1965 before the Highway Plan was published. The delay in publication was as a result of all SWK efforts being put into the preparation of contract documents for the Townhead Stage 1 scheme which began in late 1963. The "Interim Report on the Inner Ring Road" and the "Highway Plan" put forward proposals for the ring road and a number of radial motorways. In all 48 miles of motorway and 8 miles of all purpose roads were recommended. These are summarised below.



The Inner Ring Road was proposed as four distinct sections - the north, west, south and east flanks. Each would be built in stages and completed as traffic demands increased. For details on each scheme see M8 Inner Ring Road page (coming soon).


The North Flank (from Townhead to Great Western Road): Proposed as a three lane motorway with limited hardshoulders and elevated at the western end on multi-span viaducts. The route was proposed for construction on the line of the Glasgow branch of the Forth & Clyde Canal and through the Port Dundas and Cowcaddens CDAs (which would be cleared of slum housing in advance). A major interchange at Townhead and parallel distributor roads at Woodside were also outlined. This section was constructed in two phases which opened in 1968 and 1971.


The West Flank (Charing Cross Section & Kingston Bridge): Proposed as a three lane motorway with hardshoulders and junctions at Gt Western Road and Charing Cross. Route required significant remodelling and demolition in Charing Cross area. Motorway designed in cutting/tunnel for aesthetic reasons. Parallel distributors were also proposed at Newton & North Streets. Footbridges were included in the proposal for pedestrian movements at Charing Cross and Anderston. Kingston Bridge (identified as Carnoustie Street Bridge in the report) designed as five lanes each direction with no hardshoulders. Slip roads to various city centre streets on both sides of the River Clyde. Designed for 1990 traffic flows of 120k per day. This section was constructed in two phases which opened in 1970 and 1972.


The South Flank (West Street/Kingston to Laurieston): Proposed as a four lane elevated road with minimal hardshoulders on a scale similar to the north flank. Junction with A77 near Eglinton Street. Expected to cater for majority of west to east and south traffic. Direct connections to Renfrew and Ayr Motorways (see below) and West Flank. This section would have been constructed as a single section but was cancelled by Strathclyde Regional Council in 1980.


The East Flank (Laurieston to Townhead): Proposed as a four lane road with hardshoulders in places. To cross the River Clyde on a bridge near the tidal weir. From there along the western perimeter of Glasgow Green where the road would interchange with the Hamilton Motorway (see below). Junctions proposed at Gallowgate and Duke Street with an interchange in the former High Street goods yard. The road was depressed opposite Glasgow Cathedral and Royal Infirmary for aesthetic reasons. Direct connections to North Flank and Springburn Expressway (see below) at Townhead Interchange. Traffic flow analysis anticipated that this section would be the busiest section of the ring road. The line of this route was revised a number of times during the 1970s to mitigate environmental impact on Glasgow Green but was eventually cancelled by Strathclyde Regional Council in 1980. Townhead interchange was completed in the mid-1980s.

Highway Plan Facts

It was intended that the plan would be implemented in three "targets"up to 1990 or 2000.


Each target was based upon anticipated traffic flows. Target 1 was completed in 1980.


Targets 2 and 3 were cancelled shortly afterwards.


48 miles of motorways and 8 miles of all purpose roads were proposed. Around 50% of these were built. The routes were designed to cope with traffic levels predicted for 1990.


The plan laid out details for on street parking meters and multi storey car parks within the city centre.


Pedestrianisation of Sauchiehall, Buchanan and Argyle Streets was first considered in the plan.


The CDA's sought to redevelop areas of poor quality housing through demolition and replcement with modern facilities. Most were eventually scaled back or cancelled however those at Townhead, Cowcaddens and Anderston were largely completed.



A number of radial routes were identified as the best way to direct traffic away from busy citybound routes such as Alexandra Parade, Dumbarton Road and Paisley Road West. When the scope of the study was widened to include the entire city the routes of these roads was developed in more detail. For details on each scheme see the individual route pages (coming soon).  


Maryhill Motorway (Port Dundas to Canniesburn Toll): Proposed as two and three lane motorway with hardshoulders. Designed to provide connection between the North Flank of the ring road and the North Link Motorway and to remove traffic from Great Western and Maryhill Roads. This route was the first casualty of Strathclyde Regional Council's review and was cancelled in the mid-1970s.


Monkland Motorway (Townhead to Baillieston): Proposed as a three lane motorway with hardshoulders linking the ring road with the A8 Edinburgh Road. Designed to remove traffic from Edinburgh Road, Baillieston and Alexandra Parade. This route was part of Target 1 and was completed in April 1980.


Renfrew Motorway (Kingston to Renfrew Bypass): Proposed as a three and four lane motorway with hardshoulders linking the ring road to the A8(M) Renfrew Bypass. Outer carriageways were added at Tradeston due to anticipated traffic flows between south and east flanks and the Ayr and Renfrew motorways. The route was part of Target 1 and was completed in October 1976.


Ayr Motorway (Renfrew Motorway to Newton Mearns): Proposed as a two lane motorway with hardshoulders and designed to remove traffic from Pollokshaws and Ayr Roads. Connection with South Link motorway included for traffic to/from the west. Initially cancelled by Strathclyde Region except for connection to Dumbreck Road and eventually completed in full in 1996.


Hamilton Motorway (East Flank to M74 Uddingston-Hamilton-Larkhall Bypass): Proposed as three and four lane motorway with hardshoulders and expected to be main route for north/southbound traffic from city. Connection with South Link motorway included for connection to Stirling and Ayr Motorways. Cancelled at same time as East Flank and eventually redeveloped as M74 Northern Extension & Completion schemes.


Stirling Motorway (Monkland Motorway to Haggs): Proposed as three lane motorway with hardshoulders. Designed to remove traffic from Stepps and Cumbernauld Roads and provide direct link to Cumbernauld New Town and Stirling. Constructed in 2 phases which opened in 1992 and 2011.


East/South Link Motorway (Stirling/Monkland Motorway to Renfrew Motorway): Proposed as two and four lane motorway with hard shoulders and providing a link through the east and south sides of the city. Connections with Hamilton and Ayr motorways included to provide an alternative to ring road. Cancelled by 1980 by Strathclyde Regional Council - may have been downgraded from motorway by 1970 by subsequent studies.


North Link Motorway (Monkland Motorway to A82 Boulevard): Proposed as two lane motorway with hardshoulders and designed to provide a northern bypass of the city. Connections with Stirling and Maryhill motorways included. Cancelled in 1980 by Strathclyde Regional Council. 


Springburn Expressway (Townhead to Bishopbriggs): Proposed as an all-purpose dual carriageway with a mix of grade separated and at grade junctions meeting the North Link Motorway near Bishopbriggs. Connections to the North and East Flanks of the ring road and the Monkland Motorway. The road was constructed at its southern end to a more basic standard in the mid-1980s.


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