The Clydeside Expressway is a major road to the west of Glasgow city centre. Snaking along the north bank of the River Clyde, it is an important piece of the city’s road network. It exists for two reasons. Firstly, to act as a bypass of the city’s West End, taking through-traffic away from Finnieston, Kelvingrove and Partick. Secondly, to provide a link between the Clyde Tunnel, its north approaches and the M8 motorway at Anderston.
Plans for the road were first detailed in “A Highway Plan for Glasgow” published by Glasgow Corporation in 1965. The report recommended a number of new motorways and expressways within the city to remove through-traffic from its busiest thoroughfares and provide safe, modern and reliable road links with the rest of Scotland.
Constructed through former industrial sites and making allowance for the reopening of the Argyle Railway Line, the project was heralded by Glasgow Corporation as a significant engineering achievement. The economic design of its overpasses and compact junctions was particularly notable. The route greatly contributed towards the regeneration of the north bank of the River Clyde, leading to developments such as the Scottish Event Campus and Riverside Museum.
M8 (J19) to
Sir William Halcrow and
Balfour Beatty and Co.
Planning and Construction
The project was considered a priority for Glasgow Corporation and included in Target 1 of the Highway Plan construction programme. Rapid progress was made in approving the road and in September 1967 Sir William Halcrow & Partners were engaged as consulting engineers for the project.
The Highway Plan had proposed only one grade-separated junction over the entire length of the route, with "at-grade" traffic light controlled intersections at Hayburn Street, Ferry Road and Finnieston Street. The Consulting Engineers were of the opinion that light controlled junctions would impede the flow of the expressway traffic and proposed that the junctions at Sawmill, Partick and Finnieston be "grade separated", leaving only Ferry Road with a roundabout. The roundabout would be designed to allow for future modification, should that be necessary.
In March 1971, after Sir William Halcrow & Partners recommendations for the route were accepted, a construction contract valued at £3.6 million (over £40 million today) was awarded to Balfour Beatty & Co Ltd. Construction took around 24 months and the Clydeside Expressway was opened to traffic on the 27th April 1973 by Lady Provost Mrs. Mary Gray.
A relatively simple design was adopted for the overpasses constructed at Finnieston and Sawmill. Concrete beams were fabricated on site to reduce costs and the need for transport. This cross sectional drawing highlights the main elements.
The various structures built as part of the main expressway contract are of typical late 1960s - early 1970s design. The overpass bridges at Finnieston and Sawmill are precast, prestressed concrete beams which were fabricated on site. This form of economic construction was also used on the Inner Ring Road and Clyde Tunnel Approaches. It offered the advantage of reducing form work requirements and allowing any existing roads or railways below to remain open.
Finnieston Street is an eight span structure while Sawmill is only a six. All structures are supported on bored cast in-situ piles to rock with a concrete pile cap. These caps each support two columns which in turn support the beams. Underpasses were constructed as short cut and cover tunnels using precast concrete slabs. The bridges at Whiteinch are typical reinforced concrete slabs with lengths varying from 100m to 300m. A prestressed concrete bridge was built for services and pedestrian links south of Dumbarton Road.
As with many of the urban routes in Glasgow, curves with a radius of 150 feet were used to reduce land take. Gradients of no more than 5% were used whilst the lane widths are no less than 3.65m wide. At Whiteinch the road was designed to 30mph standards while the Expressway was 50mph.
In another typical 1960s feature, around 1,000 yards of electric road heating was installed for use during the winter months and to reduce gritting requirements. This is no longer in use. Like all new roads constructed in Glasgow in the 1960s and 70s, aesthetic was considered a top priority. Holford and Associates worked closely with Glasgow Corporation and Halcrow & Partners to develop appropriate designs for both hard and soft landscaping, leading to a high quality finish and appropriate screening of the new road.
Overhead sign gantries and CCTV cameras were installed on the Clydeside Expressway shortly after its completion. The “Glasgow” type box design utilised on the Inner Ring Road was used with signal units above each traffic lane. This was connected to Strathclyde Regional Council’s
‘Centrally Integrated Traffic Control System’ (CITRAC) in the early 1980s and remained in use until 2022.
At its eastern end, the Clydeside Expressway interchanges with the M8 motorway. New roads at Stobcross were constructed as part of the Kingston Bridge contract of the Inner Ring Road, completed in 1970.
The Expressway has four intermediate junctions. These are located at Finnieston Street, Ferry Road, Hayburn Street and Sawmill Road.
Finnieston Junction serves the Scottish Event Campus and provides access to the Clyde Arc and areas on the south side of the river. It is a diamond type interchange with traffic signals at the end of each of its exit slip roads. It forms part of a large gyratory system made up of Stobcross Road and Finnieston Street that surrounds the SSE Hydro car park. This very busy junction also sits above the Argyle Line’s Exhibition Centre railway station.
The overpass structure bridging Finnieston Street consists of eight intermediate spans utilising 24.5m long beams – this was copied at Sawmill Road. This junction was an incredible technical challenge due to the requirement for the structure to pass over two abandoned railway lines. It was intended that Glasgow Central Station Low Level would be reopened as the Argyle Line, with a station serving Finnieston at this location.
The area was used as a railway engineering works from around 1890 with much of Finnieston and Stobcross Streets supported on a deck of wrought iron girders and brick jack arches above the now abandoned railway tunnels. Not only did the designers have to ensure that these railway tunnels were not disturbed by the construction works, but also that the new railway could pass underneath the junction at a later date.
Pointhouse Bridge was completed in advance of the main construction contract. It remains in use today, though the area surrounding it has changed considerably since its completion in the late 1960s.
Pointhouse Bridge, which carries the Expressway over the River Kelvin at Yorkhill, was constructed in advance of the main contract by H.M. Murray Ltd to a design by the Corporation Roads Department. The aerial photograph below, which was taken in April 1971, shows the bridge as well as wide single carriageway routes on the east side. These were upgraded to dual carriageway as part of the main expressway works.
At Ferry Road a roundabout was initially provided to allow access to Yorkhill Quay. Due to the proximity of the River Kelvin and projected traffic flows, the junction was not grade-separated when the expressway was constructed. A roundabout also ensured that long vehicles using the now closed Yorkhill Container Depot had ease of access. The roundabout was constructed in such a way that it could be easily upgraded or removed in the future as necessary.
In 2005 it was proposed that the Ferry Road roundabout be removed and the Hayburn Street Junction improved. The enhancement works included the lowering of the section of carriageway between the two junctions and proposed new local roads and pedestrian footbridges. This scheme was in line with the Clyde Waterfront regeneration proposals for Partick and Glasgow Harbour. The £24 million construction contract was awarded to Belfast based Farrans Construction who completed the works in early 2008.
In its current form it has two east facing slip roads connecting to Castlebank Street, allowing local access to Glasgow Harbour and Partick.
Ferry Road was the Expressway's only 'at-grade' junction when completed in 1973. It was replaced with a flyover in 2008 as part of the Glasgow Harbour and Riverside Museum developments.
Since completion, Expressway traffic has had an uninterrupted journey from the Clyde Tunnel to the M8 at J19 Anderston. The local road improvements included a re-alignment of Castlebank Street, and a new parallel bridge over the River Kelvin linking to east facing slip roads where the once notorious Ferry Road roundabout was located. The works also involved the lowering and re-landscaping of the carriageway between the River Kelvin and the Hayburn Street junction to accommodate the new road bridge and pedestrian overpass. These junctions feature blue LED lighting on the underside of the fly-overs, in keeping with the modern feel of redeveloped area surrounding the road.
Hayburn Street junction is a simple full access diamond design, with the Expressway passing beneath in a cutting. Although simple in layout, the designers had two major challenges to overcome. Firstly, the site of the junction sat on top of one of the tunnels of the Glasgow Subway. Therefore, checks were necessary to ensure the tunnel could support the roads weight. In addition to this, the road had to be depressed to provide adequate headroom for the Hayburn Street overbridge. The result is that the Subway is just a few metres below road level.
At this location the Expressway road surface is only about half a meter above the flood level of the River Clyde. Flood prevention is provided by a surface water sewer that pumps constantly into the river.
The junction was considerably remodelled as part of the removal Ferry Road Roundabout and now features a secondary bridge and a local road tie-in via that junction. Its capacity and safety has been greatly improved since this project was completed in 2008. The new layout features a pedestrian/cycle overbridge to the east of the junction, adjacent to the Pointhouse Bridge over the River Kelvin.
Like other parts of Glasgow's new road system, the Expressway was connected to the city's traffic signalling system. Sign gantries were installed along the route as seen here at Hayburn Street junction in 1975.
The junction at Sawmill Road is a roundabout interchange, tightly squeezed into its urban surroundings. The design was chosen to allow full access to & from the Expressway from the busy surface streets of Dumbarton Road, Sawmill Road and Broomhill Drive. The junction sits particularly close to the Whiteinch Interchange - they share a slip road for eastbound Expressway traffic - and this can catch uninitiated drivers by surprise. This junction serves the areas of Whiteinch, Partick, Broomhill and Glasgow Harbour. Access to South Street was essential for access to the now demolished granaries and ship yards.
When the junction was constructed in 1971 a new length of road was built west of the roundabout and south of the Expressway to provide continuity of the route of Dumbarton Road. This was provided for local bus access, similar to that constructed at Finnieston Street. This standardisation of the construction of junctions was adopted to achieve optimum economy of the materials available and for ease of design. The concrete beams used were cast on site.
The overpass at Sawmill Road marked the western extent of the Clydeside Expressway construction contract. The junction has connections with Dumbarton Road and South Street, and remains a busy intersection.
From the Archive
This article was first published in January 2021. Updated April 2023.
A special episode of the Scottish Roadscast celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Expressway was released in April 2023. It can be heard below.