Throughout the 1950s the Corporation Planning Department made attempts to move forward with the design for the Inner Ring Road. The adopted line, and plans for the road to be built as an urban motorway, were included within the 1954 Glasgow Development Plan which was accepted by the Scottish Development Department.
With limited funding available, and the steady development of Comprehensive Development Areas (CDAs) in the central area, the Clyde Tunnel was prioritised, with construction underway before the end of the decade.
Despite this, the Corporation Planning Department Engineers proceeded to develop a design for the road. This more or less followed the line recommended by Bruce, and included a mix of at-grade and grade-separated interchanges. The route, for the most part, would involve the upgrade of existing roads including High Street, North Street and St. George's Road amongst others. The North Flank was designed to run south of Buchanan Street Railway Station interchanging with the East Flank at the junction of Cathedral Street/High Street. A traffic study was undertaken in 1958 to determine the traffic flows expected to use the completed route. A working party consisting of officials from the Scottish Development Department and various divisions of the Corporation was also organised to make recommendations on future progress.
The quinquennial review of the Development Plan, which was published in 1960, finalised the Comprehensive Development Areas and made allowances for the Inner Ring (as an urban motorway) within those affected. The construction of the Inner Ring Road was made a priority. On page 119 of its Written Statement the major road proposals for the Central Area CDA were outlined as follows:
1. - Having regard to the anticipated increase in the volume of traffic in the next 15 years, an Inner Ring Road will be essential for the city.
2 - That the said road will require to be of the scale and purpose of an urban motorway rather than a multi-purpose traffic road because:
i) Its primary purpose will be to divert traffic away from the Central Area, and it would therefore require to separate “bypass” traffic from traffic having a purpose in the Central Area.
ii) It must therefore consist of a major ring route having dual carriageways with a design offering no impediment to the rapid movement of through traffic.
iii) It must have grade separated junctions to solve the conflict at junctions between traffic flowing into the Central Area and the “bypass” traffic using the Inner Ring Road itself.
iv) It must not impede the secondary approach routes to the city centre, which must therefore pass under or over the Ring Road without connection so permitting the free redistribution of traffic having business in the Central Area
3 - Construction of the entire road, including a proposed new bridge over the River Clyde on the line of Clyde Ferry Street/Shearer Street, should if possible, be completed within the next 10 years.
In February 1960, the Corporation appointed Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners to undertake the detailed design of the Inner Ring Road as a “matter of urgency”.
The plan opposite illustrates the design prepared by Corporation Planning Engineers in the mid to late 50s.
The First Planning Report was presented to the Highways & Planning Committee of Glasgow Corporation in May 1945. The report, which was the first to consider planning issues across the entire city, was produced by City Engineer and Master of Works Robert Bruce. The recommendations within the report were developed following years of research and were seen as the basis for which the Corporation should "rebuild the City”.
The report looked at subjects including highways, transportation, industry, housing and planning. Many of its contents were controversial – it recommended the wholesale demolition and rebuild of the city centre – but some ideas, such as large scale public sector house building in areas such as Castlemilk and Easterhouse, shaped policy for almost thirty years.
A large focus of the report was on the improvement of roads and other communications with many new highway and transport recommendations made. The report is the first to outline what would become the Clyde Tunnel and by the time of its second edition parliamentary approval for the scheme had already been granted.
The report envisaged around 50 miles of new principal roads which would be limited access and used mostly by “high speed vehicles”. The city was already “very congested” and Bruce predicted that this would worsen considerably if the expected growth in motor vehicles was realised. The city’s road system was completely inadequate (designed for horse drawn carts) and would be unable to cope with the future expected traffic flows (car ownership had doubled in the ten years up to 1939). Casualty figures on the city’s road system were also high and it was stated that “propaganda alone cannot lessen this appalling rate”. A well planned, modern road system was therefore seen as essential if the city was to prosper in the latter half of the 20th century.
Bruce outlined a need for several new “Arterial Roads” designed “exclusively for the use of fast moving mechanically propelled vehicles.” These were to be dual carriageways with central reservations of varying widths. There would be no frontage access and no pedestrians. It was anticipated that many junctions (or intersections as they are referred to in the report) would be grade separated. Cyclists, pedestrians and “those with barrows” would be catered for in depressed subways with overbridges having a minimum clearance of 16 feet.
Amongst the arterial roads recommended were an inner ring of the city centre (referred to as inner core within the report), an outer ring utilising what would become the Clyde Tunnel and several radial routes. The speed limit on these routes was recommended as 50mph.
An IRR was considered essential if high quality access to the city centre was to be provided. This would have a positive effect on the area by removing “north to south” and “east to west” traffic from the “narrow limits” of the centre. Connections to areas such as Cathcart and Hyndland would be vastly improved with journey times slashed with savings of up 48 minutes to be expected. This would allow for the improvement of shopping facilities, entertainment, businesses etc. It was stated that the demolition of buildings to allow for the new routes would appear “drastic” but should be considered against the expected long life of the routes over that of surrounding buildings.
The route of the proposed IRR was as follows:
- St George’s Cross to Castle Street/Alexandra Parade via Rottenrow
- High Street to Saltmarket via Glasgow Cross, onwards to Crown Street across Albert Bridge
- Cumberland Street to Eglinton Street
- New road from Eglinton Street to Carnoustie Street
- New road and crossing of River Clyde from Carnoustie Street to Anderston Cross
- Anderston Cross to Sauchiehall Street and St George’s Cross via North Street.
This route would be upgraded or built to dual carriageway standards with a mix of at-grade and grade separated intersections. It would have a speed limit of up to 50mph and be for motor vehicles only. Upgraded radial arterials would intersect with it in several locations including Great Western Road, Alexandra Parade, Eglinton Street and Paisley Road.
By August 1947 the Highways & Planning Committee had given their approval in principle to the roads proposals of the first report and “embraced” the need for the arterials to be used by fast moving traffic with limited frontage access. The inner ring was considered a priority alongside proposals for the tunnel.
The schematics opposite are taken from the report and illustrate Bruce's intentions very effectively.
The Glasgow Inner Ring Road (IRR) was planned as an urban motorway around the city centre. Only the North and West flanks were constructed, and today these carry the M8 motorway through the city. The IRR corridor, as constructed, was designed by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and outlined in the "Interim Report on the Glasgow Inner Ring Road" published in 1962. However, its origins lie in the mid-1940s.
This page considers the evolution of the Inner Ring Road from its initial conception by Glasgow City Engineer Robert Bruce in his "First Planning Report". Also considered is the Corporation's 1950s design changes and the detailed proposals outlined in Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners "Interim Report on the Inner Ring Road" and "A Highway Plan for Glasgow".
Plans for an IRR around the city were first outlined in the Bruce Report of 1945. These were subsequently included within Sir Patrick Abercrombie's Clyde Valley Regional Report of 1949. Glasgow City Planners accepted the need for such a route and carried out initial design work throughout the 1950s. It was during this time that it was decided that the route should be constructed to urban motorway standards.
The 1960 quinquennial review, which was concerned primarily with urban renewal, offered an opportunity to move plans forward. In addition, the city had a growing traffic problem and comprehensive redevelopment made planning the new relief road much simpler. Glasgow Corporation appointed Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick (SWK) in 1960 to "proceed immediately with a limited traffic study which will provide sufficient data for the design of the Inner Ring Road and produce as a matter of urgency a definitive design for the Inner Ring Road". The road was to be able to cater for future traffic growth up to 1990. The tentative route for the ring road was inherited from previous studies and developed further - this included a new bridge over the River Clyde at Ferry Street/Shearer Street (later Carnoustie Street Bridge, then Kingston Bridge).
A large scale traffic study was undertaken in 1960 with the city divided up into 167 zones. Interviews were carried out with road users at an inner, middle and outer cordons to assist in the development of a suitable network. Traffic rates were expected to increase threefold by 1990.
An outline design was completed in 1962, with construction of the north and west flanks proposed to be constructed first as part of the M8 across the city. This would be constructed by 1975, with the south and east flanks following by 1980. The SWK study considered the inherited line of the route, whilst also considering whether there were any feasible alternatives. The topography of the city more or less dictated the final outline of the route.
There were several changes as the ring road was developed from an outline concept to a detailed design. The sections below highlight the changes between the Bruce Report, The Clyde Valley Plan, the Interim Ring Road Report and the Glasgow Highway Plan, as well as revisions made to the East Flank proposals during the 1970s.
The maps above are taken from the Appendix Folio of the "First Planning Report" published in 1945. They illustrate the proposed city centre road system which includes the Inner Ring Arterial Road.
The map opposite shows the plan developed by Glasgow Corporation in the late 1950s.
The road broadly follows the line developed by the Bruce Report plans and includes a mix of at-grade and grade separated junctions.
The east flank is simply an upgrade of High Street/Saltmarket at this stage.
The appointment of Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners (SWK) was a significant turning point in the development of an Inner Ring Road for Glasgow. Their appointment in early 1960 marked the start of a relationship with the Corporation that would endure for 15 years.
The Corporation was eager to move forward with its CDAs, some of which were located within the tentative line of the road, and it was essential therefore to determine a definitive line before any considerable progress could be made.
SWK was instructed to proceed immediately with a limited traffic study which would provide sufficient data for the design of the road and to proceed with said design. The Corporation instructed that it should be built to urban motorway standards and allow for improved access to the central area whilst providing a bypass for high speed through traffic.
The traffic study was undertaken in September 1960 and involved 31 individual road side interview stations. These were located in such a way to provide an “inner cordon” of the city centre and to cover all directions of traffic. The photographs below show one of the interview points as well as general congestion in the Townhead area of the city.
The Glasgow study was one of the first of its kind in the UK, followed shortly after by the SELNEC study of North West England. Shortly after the traffic study was completed, the Corporation instructed SWK to broaden its scope to include plans for highway improvements within the entire city area. The traffic study made some basic assumptions. Firstly, it was assumed that property densities within the city centre would decrease as the population was spread more evenly to new housing schemes in the suburbs. Secondly, it was assumed that vehicle ownership would increase considerably in the subsequent decades and that the new road system would be required to cope with this increased demand. At this time, it was growing at a rate of 7% per year.
Several fundamental principles were applied by the SWK designers early in the process. It was decided to develop a network capable of coping with the traffic flows predicted in 1990. To allow for unrestrained traffic growth would result in “unthinkable” damage to the fabric of the city due to the levels of demolition required. In a departure from earlier proposals, it was determined that the construction of new roads rather than the upgrade of existing routes would be more economically advantageous. Finally, it was proposed that through-traffic should be removed from surface streets to the greatest extent possible. SWK liaised particularly closely with officials from the Planning Department, as much of the route lay in CDAs. An excellent relationship developed between the two, with some members of both teams having worked on the development of the Cumbernauld road system just a few years before. Design on the route continued through 1961. As there were no British standards for urban motorways at this time, American practice was adopted where necessary – indeed some of the design team had worked on American Freeway schemes and so had the necessary experience.
Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick presented their Interim Report on the Glasgow Inner Ring Road to the Corporation in June 1962. A route to urban motorway standards was proposed and involved the construction of entirely new roads. Distributor roads to filter traffic to and from the motorway were also proposed. The topography of the city centre dictated that the route was located within the corridor previously approved by the Corporation. This did not mean that alternatives were automatically discounted. The plan opposite shows some alternative corridors considered by the SWK design team. One distinct change from the 1950s proposal was that the North Flank was moved north of Cowcaddens as it was found to offer economic benefits. A large proportion of the route would be built on elevated structures, particularly sections of the north and south flanks. Several junctions were provided to allow for quick access to the city centre. Sufficient capacity was provided to ensure through traffic would be unimpeded, even at 1990 levels. The Ring Road had connections to a number of adjoining radial routes, providing links to other parts of the city and beyond. A panel of consultants, including the renowned architect Sir William Holford, were consulted to consider the effect of the proposed route on the fabric of the city. The map opposite illustrates the 1962 interim proposal in some detail.
SWK advised that the likely capital cost of completion would be considerable but were unable to provide the necessary details in the initial report. Final proposals would be presented in 1963 as part of the final highway plan for the city. A number of key revisions would take place before then.
A final design for the IRR (shown below) was approved by the Corporation in 1963 when Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick submitted their highway proposals for the entire city area. These proposals were subsequently included within “A Highway Plan for Glasgow” which was published in 1965.
The final proposal was broadly similar, with some minor changes made to junction layouts on the north and south flanks. A notable deletion was an on ramp for eastbound traffic located mid-way along the north flank adjacent to the slip roads for the Maryhill Motorway. It was also decided to cover a section through Charing Cross in cut-and-cover tunnel. Details of how the ring road would connect to the various radial routes were also provided.
The Highway Plan made recommendations on the phasing of construction of the route. The north and west flanks, being located within priority areas for comprehensive redevelopment, would be progressed within Target 1. The east and south flanks would follow within ten years and would be designed to carry higher flows of traffic than the other two sides. Several illustrations by the artist Alexander Duncan Bell were included within the final plan to provide an overview of how the finished road would interact with its surroundings. A selection of these can be seen below.
Final assumptions on maximum expected traffic flows (vehicles per day at 1990) were as follows:
Kingston Bridge – 120,000
North Flank – 90,000
Charing Cross – 60,000
South & East Flanks – 85,000
Contracts for the detailed design of the north and west flanks were awarded from late-1963. Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick was awarded the north flank package which included Townhead Interchange and Woodside. W.A Fairhurst & Partners was awarded the west flank package which included Kingston Bridge and Charing Cross. Townhead was selected to proceed first with construction commencing in late-1965. Kingston Bridge followed in 1967, Woodside in 1969 and Charing Cross in 1970. Both flanks were completed by February 1972. Total construction costs of approximately £21million (over £400 million today) were envisaged. For details on each of these sections please refer to the individual scheme pages.
Between 1965 and 1972 the Corporation’s primary focus was on the completion of the north and west flanks of the Inner Ring Road. The south and east flanks, which were envisaged as being constructed as part of the second stage of the motorway programme, did not progress to any great extent during this time. The Greater Glasgow Transportation Study (GGTS) (reporting in 1967 and '68) adopted the 1965 plans almost in their entirety, with some minor revisions to the east flank around High Street.
Several groups, which including elected officials, protested at the proposed route of the east flank, which they feared would alter the fabric of city on a scale far higher than that seen at Charing Cross. Indeed, a group of protestors were present at the opening of the Charing Cross contract in 1972, calling for the east flank to be halted. Aware of mounting public concern, the Corporation arranged for public participation exercises to be held throughout 1972. A revised route that avoided many of the culturally significant buildings affected by the original proposal was given provisional backing and passed to Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick for further development.
In 1973, SWK published a revised plan for the east flank which was considerably less controversial. Further revisions were made and reports provided to the incoming Strathclyde Regional Council in July and December 1975. Public opinion remained firmly against the scheme. A final report was published in 1977 at the time the new Strathclyde Structure Plan for the city centre was being developed. This provided non-motorway options for the first time – albeit with the provision for future upgrade. In 1980, the plans for a complete ring road were shelved and an exercise to consider a way forward was ordered. After 1980, the only section of the East Flank that remained in the future programme was a link from Townhead to London Road. This remained an ambition of Strathclyde Region until its dissolution in April 1996. You can read more detail on these revisions in the South & East Flank page (links above).
The West Flank of the IRR includes the Kingston Bridge, its approaches & the controversial Charing Cross section.
Stretching from Townhead Interchange to St. George's Cross, the North Flank of the IRR was built in two stages.
The South & East Flanks of the IRR proved controversial from the outset and were ultimately cancelled.
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.