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

Reports & Studies | Unbuilt Routes

Artist's impression of the Kingston Bridge in Glasgow (1965).

"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 city's 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. Its recommendations shaped roads policy in the city for more than fifty years.

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


Proposed - 1965 to 1990

Glasgow Motorway Archive - Money Graphic

Estimated Cost

£288 million - (£5.7 billion today)

Recommended Highway Network (1965)

Highway Plan for Glasgow - Recommended Road Network (1965).

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. Mr Hodgen was joined by John M. Cullen, with both men having picked up urban highway design in the United States.

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.

Highway Plan for Glasgow - 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.

Highway Plan for Glasgow - European Shopping Street (1960s).

The study team utilised their international experience to develop a plan at the forefront of highway engineering. Trips to the USA and Europe provided further insights, with the pedestrianised shopping streets of Germany having a particular impact.

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. There was considerable press interest in the study, with newspapers such as the Glasgow Herald and Daily Record running stories on its progress and recommendations. 

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.

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 for Glasgow - Traffic flows estimated for 1990.

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 Pollokshields areas.

Target One (1965-1975)


Monkland Motorway

Renfrew Motorway

Clydeside Expressway

Great Western Road Improvements

Inner Ring Road (North & West Flanks)


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.

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.

North and West flanks of the urban motorway around the city centre. From Townhead in the north east to Kingston Bridge in the south west via Charing Cross.

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

Ayr Motorway

Stirling Motorway

Maryhill and Lomond Motorways

East Kilbride Spur

Trossachs Motorway

Springburn Expressway

Inner Ring Road (South & East Flanks)


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 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.

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.

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).

The projected growth of East Kilbride contributed to the overloading both of the Aikenhead Road and the roads through Rutherglen. We consider that the solution must be a bypass of Rutherglen connecting East Kilbride directly to the motorway system . The East Kilbride spur would connect the East Kilbride Road from south of Rutherglen to the Hamilton Motorway and would be itself of motorway standard.

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.

This is conceived as an improvement of the existing Springburn Road to expressway standards. About one mile of its total length would be totally reconstructed on a new alignment.

South and East flanks of the urban motorway around the city centre. From Townhead in the north east to Kingston Bridge in the south west via High Street and Laurieston.

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 sent out a reporter to interview drivers and gauge their views on the new system.

Despite its focus on the development of a new roads system, the study also considered the importance of public transport. By the early 1960s, Glasgow had begun to electrify
its existing suburban rail system in accordance with the Inglis report published by British Rail in the 1950s. The fact that this electrification process was complementary to highway planning was recognised in 1962 for two fundamental reasons:


1. The electrified rail system provides a fast reliable service segregated from road congestion in way that is analogous to the proposed motorways.

2. Successful town centres, while radically restricting accessibility by private car, require the provision of an exceptional level of public transport.


The city centre with its high concentration of activities was considered to be particularly adapted to rail transport. These considerations were developed further as part of the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study. The study envisaged a single interconnected transportation system for the entire conurbation and eventually led to the creation of the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive.

Target Three (1980-1990)


'C' Ring Road

North Link Motorway

Kelvindale Expressway

South and East Link Motorways


A route from the Hamilton Motorway at Maryville to Hurlet Cross. The inclusion of the C-Ring Road on the southside provided for the relief of the A726.

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.

Expressway standard link from Bearsden Road just north of Anniesland Cross to an interchange with the North Link Motorway close to Possil Loch .

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.

The 1961 appointment of Lord Holford (later his firm Holford & Associates) to offer architectural input was significant and far reaching. They made several important recommendations, not least the proposal to place parts of the Inner Ring Road in a cut-and-cover tunnel. By having final approval on the proposals, Holford's shaped the 'look and feel' of the entire roads system. He had a clear vision, as seen in this quote from 1962:

"The Ring Road and its connections are envisaged in this report as an amenity in themselves, i.e as an elegant and economic piece of engineering, architecture and bridge building whose outward appearance would symbolise the renewal of the city centre, its disengagement from traffic congestion and confusion, and a new-found capacity to deal with its rush-hour problems. Far from apologising for the intrusion of the Ring Road into the scene it can be put forward as being potentially one of its many distinguished features. Glasgow is already identified with the industrial and mechanical revolutions of the past, and it is appropriate that it should lead the way with an achievement in civil and traffic engineering which looks as good as it is."

By 1965, and with construction about to begin, he was noted as saying:

"Much can be done to marry the proposed roads to their surroundings. Where possible, we have depressed the roads below the surrounding ground level and this form of construction has many aesthetic advantages. An example of a proposed stretch of depressed road is the Charing Cross section of the Inner Ring Road. The character of this area is such that it would be difficult to reconcile with an elevated structure and the road has, therefore, been depressed although this may well prove to be somewhat more expensive than an elevated road. In many other cases, however, the topography, or the multiplicity of underground services or other physical difficulties are such that a depressed solution is not feasible. Where an elevated structure is involved, the setting becomes of major importance.

There are two factors involved in the setting. First, a belt of adequate width should., wherever possible., be preserved for landscaping purposes. This will both provide an attractive setting
for the road and screen adjacent development from the impact of the heavy traffic volumes. Secondly, the buildings adjacent to the road should read coherently with the road structure. Obviously, the best opportunities to provide an appropriate setting occur in areas of redevelopment or new development. Even beyond such areas, every effort should. be made to preserve an adequate landscaped belt and, where possible, to give a "face lift" to existing development so that driving on the new roads will give a new image of Glasgow."

Holford's role in advising on the Glasgow motorway system continued until the 1990s. Their influence is clear, particularly on the M8 through the city where attractive wall cladding, integrated light fixtures and high quality soft and hard landscaping can still be seen.

Highway Plan for Glasgow - Illustration of Glasgow Inner Ring Road at Charing Cross.

The appointment of Lord Holford and his firm as Consulting Architect for the Glasgow motorway system had a considerable impact on its ultimate appearance. The Charing Cross section of the Inner Ring Road being constructed below the existing round level is one such example. 

Highway Plan for Glasgow - M8 St George's Cross Model.

Artist's impressions and scale models were produced to illustrate the plans to the public and elected officials. These provided a fairly accurate preview of the Glasgow of the future!  


The first stage of the Highway Plan (Target One) consisting of the M8 across the city, Clydeside Expressway and Clyde Tunnel Approaches, initially programmed for completion in 1975, was completed in 1980. This was due to a delayed start on Stage 2 of the Monkland Motorway. By the late 1970s, the Scottish Development Department and Glasgow Corporation had invested almost £100 million in the projects, equivalent to more than £700 million today. Their construction remains one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in the city.

Planning work on Target Two schemes including the South and East Flanks of the Inner Ring Road, the Maryhill, Ayr and Stirling Motorways, and the Springburn and Crow Road Expressways was started in the mid-1970s. Other schemes such as the Great Western Road Expressway were downgraded or delayed.

In 1968 the Highway Plan recommendations became part of the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study with a only few minor modifications around the city boundary.


Further progress was impacted by three factors. Firstly, local government reorganisation in 1975 led to a re-evaluation of the entire roads programme and changed priorities. Secondly, a reduction in funding, particularly after the change in government in 1979 meant considerably less money was available for new construction. Thirdly, a change in public sentiment towards new urban roads, and a requirement for public engagement, meant some schemes became undeliverable.


A new 'core' network of roads was developed by Strathclyde Regional Council in the 1980s. This aimed to complete the Ayr, Stirling and Hamilton Motorways but saw the abandonment of almost all other schemes. To date only 50% of the new roads proposed in 1965 have been constructed. Despite these setbacks, the proposals of the Highway Plan influenced policy across the city for half a century. Parking policy, the pedestrianisation of shopping streets, the reduction of through-traffic from residential streets and bus prioritisation are just some of the areas affected by its far reaching proposals.

Highway Plan for Glasgow - Pedestrianised Buchanan Street (1975).

A key aim of the Highway Plan was the pedestrianisation of Glasgow's main shopping streets. This was achieved by 1975, as seen here at Buchanan Street, following completion of the North and West Flanks of the Inner Ring Road, now M8.

On completion of Target One, it was possible to compare actual traffic flows with those originally predicted, and they were found to be close. In 1980, the traffic flow on the Kingston Bridge had reached 111,000 vehicles per day (close to the originally designed capacity). The original plans had called for the completion of the Inner Ring Road by this time. This would have led to a large reduction in traffic on the Kingston Bridge and the North and West Flanks of the route due to the diversion of traffic along its South and East Flanks.


In the event, traffic flows on the Kingston Bridge continued to grow (along with the rest of the M8) in line with the growth in vehicle ownership, reaching 152,000 in 1991 and 180,000 in 2011. During most of its existence, the Kingston Bridge has probably been the busiest urban road bridge in Europe.


Because the original motorway plan is incomplete, the M8 carries far more traffic than it was designed for. In 2015, the average traffic flow over the whole 12.5 miles of the M8 inside the city was 100,000 vehicles per day. This is higher than the average flows predicted in the original studies on which the road design was based. Not surprisingly this overload has led to less than ideal operating conditions especially in peak traffic periods when queues form on the approaches to the bottlenecks in the central area. These problems were mitigated to an extent by the addition of traffic lanes on some of the most critical sections in the 1990s and the completion of the M74 in 2011.


Traffic has continued to grow and is now well beyond the levels used to design the roads system. Between 1990 and 2015, overall traffic within the city boundary grew by a factor of 3.68. These figures were determined from an average of traffic counts within the Glasgow city centre on the River Clyde Screenline and mid- Glasgow cordon, recorded between 1961 and 2015. Other strategic routes including the A77, A80 and A74 saw reductions in traffic when adjacent motorway schemes were completed. Similarly, traffic flows in the central area remain below their pre-motorway levels.


The city's main shopping streets were pedestrianised by the mid-1970s and bus prioritisation measures introduced from the early 1980s. 

Glasgow's road system of the 2020s.

The city's motorway network was completed in 2011 with the opening of the M74 Completion and M80 Stepps to Haggs projects. Around 50% of the network proposed in 1965 was ultimately constructed.

Construction of the city's new roads system had a dramatic effect on accident rates. In 1980 the accident rate for the ordinary roads in Glasgow was 1.8 injury accidents per million vehicle kilometres, and for the motorways, 0.16. The corresponding figures for 2007 were 0.54 and 0.14 (Transport Scotland, 2015).

The total reduction in accidents between 1972 and 2015 is estimated as 50,000. By applying the fatality rate measured at various dates it was possible to calculate the total number of fatal accidents saved, which was equal to 880, and serious injury accidents saved, which was equal to 11,600. The total value of these savings is £5.5 billion.


'A Highway Plan for Glasgow' remains one of the most important transport studies undertaken in Scotland. The roads constructed from its recommendations transformed travel across the conurbation and have become key parts of the country's infrastructure. Its key aims, specifically the removal of through-traffic from local roads, pedestrianisation and strict controls on parking brought benefits which continue to be realised 60 years on. The Glasgow conurbation became one of the best connected in the UK, contributing to its economic growth and the region's competitiveness.

It's not that simple of course. Only half of the recommended network was built and we're now more than thirty years on from its target completion date. Traffic growth has continued and much of the network struggles during peak periods. The effect of the missing 'outer' rings has been to force all traffic onto the M8 and M74. When these routes are congested, a proportion of traffic 'spills' onto local roads, the opposite of what the network was built to achieve. In hindsight, it is difficult to see how some of the proposed routes could ever have been built, particularly the South Link Motorway and the East Flank of the Inner Ring Road.


John Cullen remained immensely proud of the report and of its accessibility to those with little understanding of highway planning. He attributed that to the skills of Roy Hodgen and others whilst his focus was on geometric design and making the roads 'fit' within the city! In a paper from the late 1990s, he recalled:

"Looking back over this length of years two main thought come to mind. The first is to wonder that it all happened at all. In the 1960s every town and city in Britain carried out a comprehensive
traffic or transportation study, all of which proposed radical new road systems. None was substantially implemented. Glasgow appears to have gone furthest in implementing such plans. The need and the wish for new roads was widespread after the second world war, becoming more urgent as increasing prosperity followed the austerity of the immediate postwar years. By the late 1950s resources were becoming available. In Glasgow it was the town planning redevelopment plans that acted as the catalyst for action. The opportunity was seized by a group of far sighted councillors and officials of Glasgow Corporation who proceeded to pull the right levers to create the circumstances in which the project could be achieved.

Speed was then of the essence and it could be said that there was a window of opportunity extending from about 1960 when resources became available and when there was general support for new roads, until the early 70s when the oil crisis and the environmental movement led to the questioning of the wisdom of road building. The post war belief that the brave new world was achievable with the right plans was ending. The other remarkable thing was the radical scale of the plans that were implemented. Dual four lane motorways were almost in to the realms of fantasy at the time anywhere in Britain let alone in Glasgow with it's low car ownership. A dual five lane bridge and a quadruple three lane section of motorway was even more fantastic."

The Kingston Bridge in Glasgow nearing completion in June 1970s.

Highway Plan co-author John M. Cullen was immensely proud of the report and the roads built from its recommendations. When work began in 1960 the idea of a dual five lane bridge in Glasgow was considered fantastical. 

"The reasons that these radical proposals were accepted appear to be as follows. Firstly the rigorous traffic studies predicted large traffic flows that demanded radical solutions and no one was able to refute these studies. Secondly the subject was so new that it was taking place in a technological vacuum. No one around had the relevant experience to challenge the proposals. Since no new major roads had been designed since before the war, more than 20 years before, there was a shortage of people with relevant skills. At the time there were no official guide standards for any aspect urban motorway design such as alignment, cross section, operational requirements, signing standards, lighting, road furniture etc. (Fortuitously, two of the engineers working on the project had recent directly relevant experience in the United States!). Also the rapid rate of progress provided its own impetus. Also grand plans were still fashionable.


The most important factors in the design process were: traffic studies; rapid but sufficient for the purpose. Realistic design of roads to function properly with the projected traffic flows, sufficient to establish feasibility, obtain reliable cost estimates and define land reservation. And finally, attention to environment and aesthetics in the design.

From the outset, the aim of the design of the motorway has been to mitigate the adverse effects on the surroundings and hopefully this has been largely achieved. It is interesting that since the motorways have been built some houses and flats have been built surprisingly close to the motorway, so much so that had the motorway been built after the houses there would surely have been a terrible outcry! It is also noteworthy that two of the most prestigious buildings built in Glasgow in recent years, the Marriot and Hilton Hotels are immediately adjacent to the motorway.

A fact that is rarely mentioned is the many fascinating vistas of the city and the hills beyond that can be enjoyed from the motorways that are rarely visible from the normal city streets. As regards the finished appearance of the motorways, this is in the eye of the beholder. However it may be restated that an unusual and enormous effort went into this aspect of the design. What can be seen is that nearly all the road alignment is curvilinear and for much of the alignment the horizontal and vertical curves are co-ordinated. Great efforts went into integrating the road into the townscape and of course the landscaping. More than 9,000 trees were planted on the M8 alone."

From the Archive


With the support of Glasgow City Council, we are able to provide a copy of "A Highway Plan for Glasgow" on our website. A selection of other documents are also available below. We hope you enjoy browsing their content!

Recommended Network Map

In 1965, a detailed plan was prepared to illustrate the roads proposed in the Highway Plan. A high resolution copy has been produced by the Scottish Roads Archive and can be viewed by following the link below.

Pinch or click to drag and zoom the map.

This article was first published in January 2023.

Related Content

An episode of the Scottish Roadscast marking the 60th anniversary of the completion of work on the plan was released in January 2023. It can be heard below.

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