Strathaven to Erskine Bridge
The A726 is an east-west route to the south and west of the Glasgow conurbation. Almost thirty miles long, it links the towns of Strathaven, East Kilbride, Paisley and Erskine and interchanges with the A725, M77, M8 and Erskine Bridge. It has both rural and urban characteristics and is a key part of the region’s road system.
Almost one third of the route is classified as trunk road and is built to high-speed dual carriageway standards. This section, which carries a mix of regional and national traffic, acts as a southern bypass of Glasgow. Most of the route is located within Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, however a short section crosses the Glasgow city boundary between Hurlet and Darnley.
The Glasgow Southern Orbital project was assigned the A726 route number when it was completed in April 2005. It provided a high quality connection between East Kilbride and the M77 and bypassed Eaglesham village.
Prior to the construction of Glasgow’s motorway and dual carriageway system, the A726 was one of the conurbations most important routes. In the mid-1930s, the number was assigned to the road linking the A74 at Kirkmuirhill with the southern terminal of the Erskine Ferry. It interchanged with other routes of historic importance including the A71, A723, A77, A736 and A737.
Changes to the original road began in the late 1950s when its route through East Kilbride was considerably altered. Construction of the New Town resulted in the completion of an extensive new roads system and the A726 number was assigned to the Queensway, an east to west dual carriageway immediately south of the new town centre. It interchanges with the A725 Kingsway at Birniehill Roundabout. A short section of Strathaven Road was also upgraded at this time.
The 1960s saw substantial changes in the Paisley area with construction of the M8 Renfrew Bypass scheme and new Glasgow Airport at Abbotsinch. The original Barnsford Road was altered to suit the airport boundary and interchange with the motorway at St. James Interchange. Around this time, sections of the A726 in the south of Glasgow from Hurlet to Eastwood Toll were upgraded to dual carriageway.
Construction of the Erskine Bridge and Erskine New Town in the 1970s led to an upgrade at its western end. Over two miles of new and improved road were built, with the road pulled north to interchange with the A898 and M898 at the south end of the bridge. The section through Erskine was future proofed to allow for eventual widening to dual carriageway standards. This was dropped as plans for the town were scaled back, though visible signs remain on the ground today.
A726 Key Sections Construction Summary
East Kilbride - Queensway
Birniehill to Thorntonhall
M8 Renfrew Bypass
Greenock Road and Barnsford Road Diversions
Glasgow Southern Orbital
Phillipshill to Maidenhill
27th April 2005
East Kilbride - Strathaven Road Upgrade
High Common Road to Greenhills Road
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, completion of Paisley’s town centre ring road led to further changes and additional lengths of dual carriageway were also constructed. In the early 1990s, following completion of the M74 from Draffan to Millbank, the section of A726 between Kirkmuirhill and Strathaven was downgraded, becoming the B7086. A junction with the M77 Ayr Road Route scheme was opened in December 1996.
In April 2005, the A726 number was assigned to the Glasgow Southern Orbital route (GSO), a high-speed dual carriageway linking East Kilbride with the extended M77 motorway at Maidenhill. The original road through Clarkston and Busby was renumbered as A727 at this time. The GSO scheme had grown from earlier proposals for a bypass of Eaglesham and the substandard B764, and was envisaged as a bypass of the Glasgow motorway system. Almost twenty years on from its completion, it has become a key part of the strategic roads system.
In 2021/22, a section of Strathaven Road to the south east of East Kilbride was upgraded to dual carriageway standard. The £16 million project was delivered by South Lanarkshire Council and funded as part of the Glasgow City Deal programme. Almost one mile of the existing A726 was upgraded in conjunction with improvements to Greenhills Road.
This article was first published in January 2021.