A Highway Plan for Glasgow:
Designing the city's roads of the future!

Reports & Studies | Unbuilt Routes

Illustration 2 - Kingston Bridge Web.jpg

"A Highway Plan for Glasgow", published in June 1965, was produced by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners on behalf of the Corporation of the City of Glasgow. The plan, which grew from a study into the design of the Inner Ring Road, set out proposals for a network of new roads to be constructed in the city to the year 1990.


The plan was designed to be delivered in five year stages, taking cognisance of the fact that it had to be "dynamic, liable to change or policy review", and with a long term commitment to deliver upon its recommendations. 


In all, fifty six miles of new roads were proposed, forty eight of which were to urban motorway standards. The elimination of through-traffic from residential areas, the pedestrianisation of the city's main shopping streets and controls on parking were also key components of the published plan. 

Key Data

Glasgow Motorway Archive - Location Graphic


Corporation of the City of Glasgow

Glasgow Motorway Archive - Designer Graphic

Consulting Engineer

Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners

Glasgow Motorway Archive - Calendar Graphic

Construction Proposed

1965 to 1990

Glasgow Motorway Archive - Money Graphic

Estimated Cost

£288 million

(£5.7 billion today)

Recommended Highway Network (1965)

Highway Plan - Recommended Network Web.jpg

An interactive map showing the road network and junction layouts proposed in 'A Highway Plan for Glasgow' can be viewed HERE.


Glasgow had "one of the worst housing problems in Europe", and the 1960 quinquennial review of its development plan sought to initiate urban renewal through comprehensive redevelopment. Twenty nine Comprehensive Development Areas (CDAs) totalling 39,000 acres, or 15% of the built up area of the city, were proposed. The central area was almost fully encircled by nine, the majority of which were to be taken forward as a high priority.

The city centre had a growing traffic problem and the redevelopment proposals offered an opportunity to plan new relief roads including an Inner Ring Road. Traffic within Glasgow grew by 66% in the period between 1954 and 1961, with further substantial growth recorded until the late 1960s. 

In February 1960, Glasgow Corporation commissioned Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Partners (SWK) to prepare a design for the Inner Ring Road, and in 1961 the scope of the study was widened to include the preparation of a highway plan for the entire city. SWK began work in the summer of 1960 with a small team lead by Roy Hodgen in an office on Glasgow's High Street.

At the same time the Corporation appointed other consultants to cover issues other than engineering. The most significant and far reaching of these was the appointment of the firm headed by Lord Holford, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a leading town planner, to consider the environmental, town planning and aesthetic aspects. They established an office in Glasgow for this purpose.

Great Western Road, Glasgow (Early 1970s).

Road traffic in Glasgow grew at significant levels during the 1950s and 60s. Congestion became a common feature, particularly in the city centre and at busy intersections on routes such as Great Western Road.

The Study

To design a system of new roads that would meet the future needs of the city, it was necessary to calculate traffic demands. To determine future traffic, it was essential to ascertain the 1961 traffic patterns. This was done by carrying out a comprehensive origin destination survey, achieved by carrying out roadside interviews at 167 traffic survey stations located throughout the city. The results were analysed to produce the current traffic pattern in the city.

In practice, this meant that the city was divided into 178 zones with a table of all zone to zone trips created. Using predicted changes in population and employment in each zone, and predicted increases in vehicle ownership, the future traffic demand was obtained for the design year of 1990. The overall future traffic flows were found to be about three times the 1961 flows.


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, although 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 its other findings. With traffic flows projected, SWK set about selecting final lines and a detailed design for the road system.

The first priority was the completion of the Inner Ring Road. At the time it was universally believed that inner ring roads were an essential part of any new major road system in a city. Traffic studies predicted high future traffic flows on the Inner Ring Road (and on adjacent radial motorways) in excess of 100,000 vehicles per day, and only motorways could carry such volumes of traffic.

To put this flow into perspective, the maximum flow on any road in Glasgow in 1961 was 38,000 vehicles per day, on George V Bridge. Only two short sections elsewhere exceeded 25,000 vehicles per day. It was therefore clear early on that a network of new high capacity roads to motorway standards would be required throughout the city.

Glasgow on-street traffic survey (1961).

With the assistance of the police, roadside traffic surveys were undertaken across the city in 1961 and 1962. The information collected was analysed to make predictions on traffic demand in the year 1990. 

At the start of the planning and design process a number of fundamental decisions were made. It was decided that motorways should not be located on the line of existing roads but should be located on new lines leaving the original road system intact.


At the time this was a rather novel idea, but it had a number of distinct advantages. It offered the flexibility to locate the new motorway routes where they did not sever existing communities and where adverse effects on people could be minimised. It offered greater flexibility to avoid good properties. For example; the line of the Monkland Motorway follows the line of the old Monkland Canal which had already been a line of severance. The same principles apply to the Renfrew Motorway, the Ayr Motorway (M77) and Clydeside Expressway.


Services such as water, sewers, gas, electricity and telephone are inevitably found along the line of main roads. The costs of relocating these services can be surprisingly high and the maintenance of traffic during construction adds significantly to the cost. Road users are also subject to delays and frustration. A further advantage is that the existing roads remain to fulfil their proper function, including their use as bus routes and at the end of the day there are two roads rather than one. It was also policy to locate routes in CDAs as far as possible.

Other basic assumptions were made. Firstly, that property densities within the city centre would decrease as the population was displaced to new housing schemes in the suburbs. Secondly, 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, car ownership was growing by 7% per year.

Coventry Shopping Centre (1970s).jpg

The SS Roken passes the bridge in February 1949. Two channels, each 150 feet wide were provided for vessels of up to 2,000 tonnes. © The Scotsman Publications Ltd.

From the outset it was considered undesirable if not impracticable to plan for unrestrained access to the Central Area by car. It was proposed to limit traffic by restricting the provision of parking spaces. Whereas previously, new developments were required to provide certain minimum numbers of parking spaces the new policy imposed a severe upper limit on the number of parking spaces allowed.

During the study, deputations from Glasgow Corporation, SWK and others made visits to the USA and Europe to view examples of urban renewal. John M. Cullen, a co-author of the highway study recalled: "What struck me was that the operational design of European urban motorways was inferior to that in the USA, but the aesthetic was, in general, better." Those findings had a major influence on the design of the Glasgow motorways.


Work on the study was completed in 1963 at which time its recommendations were submitted to the Corporation for consideration. Formal publication of the highway plan report was delayed until 1965.

The Recommendations

Although the Highway Plan Report was not formally published until 1965, the details of the main proposals had been known to the Corporation since 1963. A final design for the Inner Ring Road had been approved earlier, in 1962 (for more detail click here).

The report recommended the construction of 56 miles of new roads within the city boundary, 48 of which were proposed as motorway. The outline design of the proposed road system was done in sufficient detail to establish the feasibility of the proposals, to make realistic cost estimates and to define the extent of the land that should be reserved for the proposed roads. The system was designed for predicted 1990 traffic. This was when traffic growth was expected to be approaching saturation and it was considered that any reasonable construction programme would take about 30 years to complete.

The system would be built in a series of contracts of manageable size which would be designed by civil engineering organisations, either in house by Glasgow Corporation or by civil engineering consultants. Civil engineering contractors would then build the work supervised by the designers. In planning the sequence of contracts three factors were important. Firstly the maximum immediate improvement to traffic, by relieving areas of worst congestion. Secondly the priority status of any of the redevelopment areas that roads were to pass through and thirdly they should produce at any time a coherent road system that would make sense even if further road building stopped.


The first major target, Target One, was a continuous motorway across the city connecting the Renfrew Bypass in the west with the A8 Edinburgh Road and temporarily the M73 in the east. This became the M8.

Highway Plan Traffic Flows 1990 Web.jpg

Traffic flows predicted for the year 1990 were used to devise a network of news road across the city. These were also used to determine which of the roads should be constructed first. In the diagram above, thicker lines indicate busier routes.

In addition to the Inner Ring Road, several radial motorways and expressways were proposed. These were were identified as the best way to direct traffic away from busy citybound routes such as Alexandra Parade, Dumbarton Road and Paisley Road West and are summarised in the tables below. Their completion was proposed in three 'Targets' up to the year 1990.

Another recommendation was to pedestrianise the main shopping streets in the city centre, these being Argyle Street, Sauchiehall Street, and Buchanan Street. In line with the recommendations of the later Buchanan Report it was proposed to exclude extraneous traffic from residential areas to the maximum feasible extent, mainly by closing off certain streets. Examples of these ideas being put into practice can seen in the West Princes Street, Great Western Road, Saracen Street and Pollockshields areas.

Target One (1965-1975)


Monkland Motorway

Hamilton Motorway

Renfrew Motorway

Clydeside Expressway

Great Western Road Improvements


Scheme suggested by the City Engineer's Department. It makes use of the solum of the Monkland Canal as part of a radial motorway from the A8 Edinburgh Road to the Inner Ring Road.

Continues the proposed M74 Motorway to the Inner Ring Road. A spur road is used to connect Aikenhead Road (proposed for improvement to expressway standards) to the motorway with the intention of providing relief to the southern approaches to the Central Area.

This connects the proposed Renfrew Bypass motorway to the southern approaches to the Kingston Bridge on the west flank of the Inner Ring Road. The southern approach to the Clyde Tunnel is
extended to tie directly into the Renfrew Motorway.

This is an expressway which connects the proposed northern approaches to the Clyde Tunnel to the west flank of the Inner Ring Road.

Recommended improvements include: a raised physical median barrier, pedestrian over/underpasses, bus laybys, grade separation of important junctions, closing of access from side streets.

It had long been recognised that controls on parking in the city centre were essential. The 'Interim Report on the Glasgow Inner Ring Road' stated:

"There will always be a suppressed demand for travel by car to the centre of large cities. If no better means are found, the traffic will increase until the street congestion acts as the control. The development of such congestion is intolerable. A more acceptable means of control would be based upon the level of parking provision and parking charges. It can be seen that in theory the entry to the city centre could be closely controlled at the desired level by adjustment of the amount of and charge for parking accommodation, if alternative routes are provided for the through traffic. At the same time, the prosperity of the city centre is dependent upon providing the maximum feasible access by every means of transport.

"It is considered that the restriction of the growth of motor traffic which has been postulated for the city centre requires the maintenance of a high level of public transport service to this area.
Further, it is to be expected that the emphasis in the method of public transport to this area will tend to move from road to rail. The increasing importance of rail travel will be accentuated by the outward movement of the population to low density suburban areas."

Target Two (1975-1980)


Hamilton Motorway


Continues the proposed M74 Motorway to the Inner Ring Road. A spur road is used to connect Aikenhead Road (proposed for improvement to expressway standards) to the motorway with the intention of providing relief to the southern approaches to the Central Area.

Ayr Motorway

This is a motorway to the south of the city starting from the Renfrew Motorway. Discussions with the
County Surveyor of Renfrewshire revealed draft plans for the north-south motorway which could conveniently be matched to our proposal at the city boundary.

Stirling Motorway

The volumes on the Stepps Road are predicted to increase beyond the capacity of the road from east of Stepps to the point where Cumbernauld Road crosses the Monkland Motorway. The Stirling Motorway extends from the Monkland Motorway to the A80 Stirling Road dual carriageway.

Maryhill and Lomond Motorways

These form a north-west radial motorway connecting to the proposed C-ring road to the north of the city and to the Boulevard which is an existing road of expressway standard. A substantial part of the motorway makes use of the solum of the Forth and Clyde Canal (Glasgow Branch).

South and East Link Motorways

Overloading of the Inner Ring Road particularly on the south and east flanks suggested the eventual need for a further circumferential relief road located at not too great a distance from the Central Area. A motorway route was investigated which closely paralleled and relieved the surface route starting at the Renfrew Motorway on the west incorporating the link from the Hamilton Motorway to Aikenhead Road, and extending northwards to meet the Monkland Motorway.

Trossachs Motorway

The predicted volumes of traffic in the Burghs of Bearsden and Milngavie were such as to totally overload the Canniesburn Toll junction in its present form. The motorway provides an alternative route.

North Link Motorway

It was observed that the volumes attracted to the C-ring road on the north side of the city were rather
small, while the Monkland Motorway, the north flank of the Inner Ring Road and the Maryhill Motorway were carrying very heavy volumes. It was decided to upgrade the proposed C-ring road design to form a North Link of motorway standards on the same alignment.

The report made the following recommendations on parking controls, the first of which came into force during 1965.

1. The Corporation should control the amount and location of parking provision in all congested areas in order to restrict vehicular entry to within available road capacity.

2. The Corporation should maintain that balance between the commuter and the short term parker which best promotes the business life of the City and which makes maximum use of but does not overload the available road and parking space.

3. This could be achieved by the public control of parking so that appropriate charges could be made for long and short term parking.

4. The Corporation should adopt and keep under continual review a master plan for parking and should carefully examine proposed new development both in and out of redevelopment areas in order to work towards the realisation of this plan.

A change in administration between 1968 and 1971 led to delays in the rollout of some aspects of the city's new parking policy.

Parking controls were introduced in Glasgow city centre in May 1965. BBC Scotland interviewed several drivers to gauge their views on the new system.


By the 1980s, the bridge’s mechanical components were obsolete and in need of modernisation. A slump in river traffic, combined with the high cost of refurbishment led the Scottish Office to propose that the bridge be permanently closed shut. Despite protests from locals and former bridge staff, the proposal was approved in 1987 following a public enquiry.


On Sunday 31st January 1988 the bridge swung open for the last time. Hundreds gathered for the occasion, including keen transport photographer Donald Stirling who shared the images below.


Works to fix the bridge in position were completed by the end of 1989, with the control and engine rooms preserved as a museum.

© Donald Stirling - Kincardine Bridge - South Portal (January 1988)
© Donald Stirling - Kincardine Bridge opens for the last time. (January 1988).

In 1987 it was decided that the bridge would be permanently closed to river traffic. On 31st January 1988, the bridge swung open for the last time. Hundreds of onlookers gathered for the occasion. © Donald Stirling

You can view more of Donald's photos from the event here.

The Bridge Today

The Kincardine Bridge is now managed by Transport Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Ministers. More than 10,000 vehicles still use the bridge each day.

In 2008, it was joined by its upstream companion the Clackmannanshire Bridge, designed to improve the traffic situation throughout the region and bypass Kincardine town centre.

Historic Environment Scotland listed the bridge as a Category A structure in February 2005, recognising its unique architectural and technical features. The bridge is a key link in the Scottish trunk road system and a series of multi-million pound projects are planned to ensure it remains open to vehicular traffic for decades to come.


The bridge deck was refurbished and new street lighting installed in the late 2010s. A programme of steelwork painting and the replacement of the piled south approach viaduct will commence in 2022.

Kincardine Bridge - Aerial view from south east (2020).

From the Archive


A short documentary was produced in the late 1980s to chart the history of the bridge. It also discusses its permanent closure. A copy was recently uploaded to YouTube and can be viewed below.

Further Reading

This article was first published in October 2021.

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A special podcasting celebrating the 85th anniversary of the bridge was released in October 2021. It can be heard below.