East Kilbride Expressway and Bellshill Bypass
The A725 is a cross Lanarkshire route linking the towns of East Kilbride and Coatbridge. Much of the road is trunked and was formed from the construction of the East Kilbride Expressway and Bellshill Bypass. It interchanges with the A726, M74, M8 and A8.
It functions as a southern and eastern bypass of the Glasgow urban motorway system and was recently upgraded where it meets the M74 at Raith Interchange and the M8 at Shawhead Junction.
The first section of the route to be developed was the Bellshill Bypass. It was deemed necessary following traffic studies undertaken by Lanark County Council into the route of the proposed M74 Hamilton Bypass and M73 motorway. It was clear that a connection between the M74 and the A8/M8 was essential to prevent congestion through Bellshill and its surroundings (Bogs Brae, Orbiston and North Road for example).
The A725 from East Kilbride to Coatbridge was completed in several stages. This aerial photo, taken in 1978, shows Stage 2 of the East Kilbride Expressway as passes east of High Blantyre.
It was completed in 1968 prior to the completion of the M74 from Hamilton to Maryville. There were two distinct sections to the contract. The first, from Shawhead Junction to Orbiston was built along the route of a dismantled railway. This provided a clear corridor for the road with some existing rail bridges where possible to reduce costs – North Road and the bridge over the North Calder Water being such examples. New junctions were provided with the A721 (Bellziehill) and at the site of the future Bellshill Industrial Estate and Food Park at North Alderston Farm (known locally as Diamond Interchange).
From Orbiston to Raith Interchange the existing two lane Bellshill Road was dualled with a new carriageway constructed for eastbound traffic. The existing rail bridge over the West Coast Mainline was widened to accommodate the additional lanes. On completion, the road was assigned the number A725. The £1.3 million contract was designed by Babtie, Shaw and Morton and constructed by Whatlings.
What became known as the East Kilbride Expressway was developed in two sections. The southernmost section from Whirlies Roundabout to the A726 at Birniehill was constructed as one of two major routes required for the East Kilbride New Town proposals. It was completed in 1957 as the Kingsway. Design was by the East Kilbride New Town Corporation, however contractor details and a completion date remain unknown.
The section from Whirlies Roundabout to Raith Interchange resulted from the need to provide higher quality routes from Hamilton to East Kilbride and replace the inadequate A776 Stoneymeadow Road from High Blantyre and the B7012 via Bothwell Bridge. It was eventually included within the recommendations of the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study as a proposed dual carriageway link to the M74.
A725 Construction Summary
East Kilbride - Kingsway
Queensway to Whirlies
Raith to Shawhead
EK Expressway Stage 1
Whirlies to Crossbasket
EK Expressway Stage 2
Crossbasket to Auchinraith
Stages 3A, 3B & 4
Auchinraith to Raith I/C
15th December 1983
Stage 1 was prioritised and taken forward and designed by the County of Lanark, opening to traffic in April 1967 after some construction delays. This provided a dual carriageway link from Whirlies Roundabout to Crossbasket. The eventual cost was £600,000, almost double the initial estimate of £382,000. Contractor was James, Anderson and King.
Stage 2 from Crossbasket to Auchinraith was completed eleven years later in October 1978. Scottish Development Department grants were provided in 1973/74 to allow for the removal of coal bings along the route. The eventual cost was £5.2 million. Design work was undertaken by Lanark County and Strathclyde Regional Council's. The main contractor was Murdoch MacKenzie Ltd.
Stages 3A, 3B and 4 completed the most difficult section of the route from Blantyre to Raith Interchange and include several large structures in the Whistleberry area. Great care had to be taken near the existing Bothwell Bridge and property acquisition considerably added to the overall cost of the scheme which ended up costing £12.2 million. The project was design by Strathclyde Regional Council and constructed by Murdoch MacKenzie Ltd. It was completed on December 15th 1983. On completion, the A725 number was extended to East Kilbride.
As Paul Veverka from the Blantyre Project explained in 2016, “Great care had to be taken around the old Bothwell Bridge protecting it fully as parts of it dated to the 15th century. The Bothwell Bridge was built between 1400 and 1486. According to the expressway architects, evidence of that original bridge is still located within the core of the existing Bothwell Bridge. During the Expressway construction, the contractors were able to dispel a myth that somehow a 5th arch would be under the road approaches. This was not the case and the bridge was confirmed as only having 4 arches.”
The section through Raith Interchange was considerably upgraded between 2014 and 2017 with the provision of a grade separated underpass for through traffic. Traffic congestion was occurring at peak times only a few years after it was completed, with the Scottish Office commissioning improvement studies as early as 1992. Part-Time traffic signals were installed during the 1990s, eventually becoming permanent at the ends of the M74 slip roads.
Minor modifications have been made along the route in recent years. In the mid-1990s a link to Nerston was added to remove traffic from Whirlies Roundabout and additional slip roads were added to aid access to the Hamilton International Business Park at High Blantyre. In the mid-2000s the Diamond Interchange was remodelled as part of the expansion of the Strathclyde Business Park. In 2017 east facing slips to the new offline section of M8 motorway were added and the junction with North Road and A8 at Shawhead were completely rebuilt.
The short section of A725 from Shawhead to the A89 near Coatbridge town centre is a non-trunk road maintained by North Lanarkshire Council. It was dualled in phases from the early 1970s to the 1990s.
This article was first published in December 2020.