Glasgow to Kilmarnock
The M77 is the main road link between Glasgow and Ayrshire. Almost twenty miles long, it doubles as a bypass of the city's south side. Developed from proposals for an 'Ayr Motorway' in 1965's 'Highway Plan for Glasgow', it was built in three stages, the most recent of which was completed in 2005.
The original project was shelved in the late 1970s with the exception of a short spur from the M8 to Dumbreck Road. It was resurrected a decade later due to cross-party political pressure and traffic congestion.
South of Newton Mearns, the motorway replaced a notoriously poor single carriageway section of the A77.
Improved road connections between Glasgow and Ayrshire were first proposed in the Clyde Valley Regional Plan of 1949, but it was the 1960s before any significant progress was made.
In 1961, as plans for Glasgow's Inner Ring Road were being developed, it became clear that a radial motorway for traffic from the south of the city would be required. An upgrade of the A77 was deemed unrealistic due to the scale of property clearance required, and so a new road, the 'Ayr Motorway', was proposed in a corridor to the west. Traffic studies determined that the motorway should have a a mix of two, three and four lane sections with hard shoulders throughout.
It was anticipated that the M77 would interchange with two orbital motorways - the South Link Motorway and the "C" Ring Motorway (later the Paisley - Hamilton Motorway) both of which were abandoned in the 1970s.
M77 Construction Summary
Within the Glasgow city boundary, construction of the urban 'Ayr Motorway' was planned in two stages. Stage 1, between the M8 Renfrew Motorway and Dumbreck Road, was programmed for completion before 1975. Stage 2, between Dumbreck Road and the A726 at Darnley, was to follow before 1980. A rural section, between the A726 and the Kilmarnock Bypass was developed separately by the Scottish Development Department.
Public exhibitions were held in the early 1970s, at which it became clear there were concerns about the impact of the new road on Pollok Park. Glasgow Corporation commissioned Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick to look again at the proposal, and revised plans for a smaller scale project were published in early 1975. Strathclyde Regional Council, responsible for Glasgow's motorway plans from May of that year, would ultimately ignore its recommendations.
By late 1976, Stage 2 had been shelved. Stage 1, albeit to a lesser specification and with a new name, the 'Dumbreck Road Connection', was approved for construction. The slip roads between Stage 1 and the M8 at Plantation were completed in the autumn of that year as part of the Renfrew Motorway project.
Valued at £4.3 million (£17 million in today's prices), construction of the 'Dumbreck Road Connection' began in April 1979 and was completed in August 1981. Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick was responsible for the design of the project, which was built by Glasgow based Whatlings. On completion, the short spur was assigned the M77 route number despite its lack of hard shoulders.
Despite public statements by Strathclyde Regional Council that Stage 2 was no longer under consideration, Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick was instructed to allow for a future extension in their design. The council was clear that flared slip roads and unused spurs were to be avoided in case the public became suspicious. Instead, a large roundabout was constructed which remained in place until 1995.
By the mid-1980s, and faced with increasing congestion on the A77 through Glasgow's southside, Strathclyde Regional Council, with Scottish Office support, announced plans for an extension of the M77 to Newton Mearns. The announcement followed years of lobbying by politicians from Glasgow and Ayrshire which included then Secretary of State for Scotland, George Younger.
The project, referred to as the 'Ayr Road Route' in the hope that no one would realise it was a motorway, was slow to make progress. The Scottish Office took the view that the section within Glasgow should be paid for by the regional council, though they later agreed to fund it in full.
A Public Local Inquiry was held in 1987 and recommended that the project proceed. Several advance contracts followed, with the main construction contract awarded in the spring of 1995. Valued at £53 million (£102 million in today's prices), it was the largest design and build contract in Britain at that time. The main contractor was Wimpey Engineering and Construction (acquired by Tarmac in 1996) who appointed Babtie as their designer.
Construction was completed in December 1996, despite protests about the impact of the motorway on Pollok Park and its surrounding communities.
By now, the Scottish Office planned to extend the motorway south to Kilmarnock, bypassing a notorious section of single carriageway A77. Construction of this section, awarded to Connect Roads, a joint venture of Atkins and Balfour Beatty, began in 2003. The £132 million design, build, finance and operate scheme was completed in April 2005 to much fanfare. As part of the contract, Connect Roads will maintain this section of the M77 and the connecting Glasgow Southern Orbital route until 2035.
Junctions on the M77 are numbered from north to south, from the M8 at Plantation to Junction 8 at Fenwick. The motorway is constructed to urban standards as far as Junction 3 (Darnley) and takes on rural characteristics thereafter. Its entire length is made up of dual two lane carriageways with hard shoulders, although a short stretch of climbing lane can found in the southbound direction between Junctions 3 and 4 (Crookfur).
The M77 is connected to the M8 and M74 motorways via east facing slip roads. This fork type junction provides free flow movements for traffic heading to or from the east. Traffic heading to or from the west makes use of the Seaward Street Loop, constructed in the late 2000s as part of the M74 Completion project. As there are no connections with the surface street network, this junction is unnumbered.
The motorway crosses the main Paisley to Glasgow Railway before passing below Nithsdale Avenue and reaching Junction 1 (Dumbreck). This section, completed in 1981, was built without hard shoulders (later added in 1995) and had lower design standards than other motorways in the city. A third lane was constructed on the southbound carriageway in 2010 for traffic merging from the M74.
The urban nature of the motorway led to compact junctions being constructed at Dumbreck, Pollok and Darnley. Much consideration was given to their design in an attempt to reduce their impact on adjacent communities. For this reason the slip roads on this stretch are noticeably short, some requiring modification on safety grounds after the motorway opened in December 1996.
Between Junctions 1 and 2 (Pollok) the motorway is built in cutting to reduce its visual impact on Pollok Park. Vegetation lines the road on both sides, a key requirement of the Ayr Road Route environmental proposals. Junction 2, originally a diamond type junction, was extensively modified as part of the Silverburn development in the mid-2000s.
South of Junction 3, the M77 loses its carriageway lighting and a 50mph speed limit. Once rural in nature, an expansion of Crookfur has seen new housing replace the agricultural land once seen east of the motorway. This, and other developments, have increased traffic flows on the urban M77 to more 90,000 vehicles a day. Peak time congestion occurs on a regular basis.
Limited access to the motorway is provided at Junction 4, where only north facing slip roads were constructed. North of here the motorway is connected to Traffic Scotland’s network of overhead sign gantries, variable message signs and CCTV cameras.
At Junction 5 (Maidenhill), the M77 interchanges with the A726 Glasgow Southern Orbital route. Completed in April 2005 as part of the southern extension of the motorway, it was moved south from its original location at Ayr Road. The original southbound slip road remains in place but is now closed to traffic.
South of Junction 5, the motorway crosses an area of moorland more than 200m above sea level. This exposure often leads to disruption during poor winter weather. Between here and Junction 8 (Fenwick), the motorway is constructed parallel to the A77 which was prioritised for agricultural traffic and cyclists on its completion.
Junction 6 (Kingswell) is limited access with north facing slip roads providing a connection to the A77 immediately west of the B764 Eaglesham road. Initial plans for the M77 proposed that a motorway service area would be constructed at this location. To date, no formal proposals have been made.
Junctions 7 and 8 are also limited access, with only access to or from the southbound carriageway only. The motorway ends where it meets the A77 Kilmarnock Bypass, a short distance north of Meiklewood Interchange.
From the Archive
This article was first published in November 2020. Updated November 2021.