The Maryhill Motorway
The Maryhill Motorway was first proposed in the report “A Highway Plan for Glasgow”, published in 1965. A key part of the city’s proposed network of motorways and expressways, its purpose was to link the Inner Ring Road with the north west of the city and to reduce traffic flows on Great Western Road, Maryhill Road and Balmore Road. It was shelved in 1975 following considerable public opposition.
M8 (J16 - 17)
to A81 (Cannesburn Toll)
Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick
Holford & Associates
1975 to 1980
(£225 million in 2020)
Proposed Route (1965)
History and Planning
The Maryhill Motorway was conceived in 1961 as part of the Inner Ring Road studies. In order to design the Inner Ring Road, it was necessary to determine the starting point of various radial motorways and, in order to do this, it was necessary to determine a feasible route to the outskirts of the city.
The earlier Bruce Report and Abercrombie Report had both proposed a motorway route along the line of Great Western Road. It was considered that this was environmentally unacceptable and since the canal through Maryhill was closed to navigation, it was considered that it provided the only acceptable corridor for a radial motorway in the north west sector of the city. This proposed motorway was first shown in the "Interim Report on the Glasgow Inner Ring Road" published in 1962.
This proposed motorway was described as the Northwest Motorway and, with a local exception, followed the proposed routes of the Maryhill and Lomond Motorways outlined in 1975 to join the A82 Boulevard at Kilbowie. The local exception was in the vicinity of Maryhill Park, where the original plan was for the motorway to pass to the west of the park.
Many had concerns about the impact of the motorway on local communities, particularly in the Queens Cross and Bilsland Drive area. The plan above, from the 1965 Highway Plan, shows the initial proposal.
In the course of later studies associated with the preparation of the full Highway Plan, it was found that a better line to the north from Stockingfield was one which cut through Gilshochill to the undeveloped land to the north. The recommended proposals were shown in the "Highway Plan for Glasgow" report, published in 1965 and subsequently included in Volume 2 of the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study.
It was proposed that the motorway should be constructed with dual two lane carriageways between the Inner Ring Road and the Kelvindale Expressway, and dual three lane carriageways between Kelvindale and the interchange with the North Link, Lomond and Trossachs Motorways.
In 1968, when proposals for housing in Summerston were being developed by Glasgow Corporation, it was decided to move the route of the motorway to the east to produce the maximum single area for the new housing development.
Some elected representatives, Corporation officials and members of the public expressed concern about the potential impact of the motorway on the communities along its southern end. As a result, the Maryhill Motorway proposal was the subject of public participation events in the autumn of 1972. An exhibition was held in the Methodist Central Hall from Tuesday 24th to Saturday 28th October and was visited by more 3,300 people. A public meeting was held in the same week on 26th October at Woodside Hall. It was attended by elected officials and officials from Glasgow Corporation.
The Woodside section of the Inner Ring Road was completed in May 1971. Allowance was made for the connection of the Maryhill Motorway at a later date, with four short spurs constructed immediately east of the Woodside Viaducts.
In advance of the public participation events, an alternative scheme to that in the Highway Plan was prepared to integrate the motorway with the proposed land uses in a more acceptable manner.
The main changes were to place the motorway in cutting in the Bilsland Drive and Queens Cross area. This scheme excluded the Kelvindale Expressway, and was consistent with the proposals to retain and improve the Forth and Clyde Canal for recreational uses in a report prepared for the Corporation by William Gillespie & Associates.
Subsequent to the public participation events, further studies were undertaken in the Queens Cross and Bilsland Drive area and a series of working party meetings were held to further refine the proposals. These were led by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Holford & Associates in consultation with Corporation officials, and in May 1974 a preliminary report was published. It contained recommended proposals for most of the motorway and studies of alternative schemes in certain areas. The report was discussed with Planning Department and the City Engineer's Department and a final agreement was reached and published in May 1975.
The unused spur on the M8 between junctions 16 and 17 is one of the few remaining indications that the Maryhill Motorway was ever planned. It has been modified only slightly since its completion in 1971.
The report published in 1975 concluded that a dual two lane motorway should be constructed, with provision for widening to dual three lane in future. It was anticipated that the motorway would be highly utilised with around 60,000 vehicles using it per day by 1990. That makes it comparable to the M77.
Its construction was to be split into two contracts, one from the Inner ring Road to Bilsland Drive and the other from Bilsland Drive to Killermont. An advanced contract to pipe the Glasgow Branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal was also proposed.
Proposed Route (1975)
The southern section of the motorway was to have been constructed on the line of the Glasgow Branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Junctions were provided at Possil Road and Bilsland Drive. It would have joined the M8 between Junctions 16 and 17.
From the North Flank of the Inner Ring Road the road would have travelled in a northerly direction along the line of the Glasgow Branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal, parallel to the massive warehouses of Speirs Wharf. The culturally significant building by the lock would have been retained and panoramic views of the city centre and west end would have been visible for traffic travelling south towards the M8.
An allowance for the Maryhill Motorway was made during the planning of the M8 and a number of bridges and extra wide sections of viaduct were constructed to ensure this could be added with ease. The only major structure required would have been a bridge crossing the eastbound M8. A stub on the M8 westbound viaduct can be seen to this day.
The route would have continued along the line of the canal, crossing Possil Road where a limited access junction with north facing slips was to have been provided. From here the motorway turned north westwards towards the Firhill where a large meander in the canal was bypassed. The road would have passed between Firhill Stadium and Maryhill Road in cutting and until only a few years ago an obvious gap in the tenement blocks was apparent where it would have squeezed through.
At Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Queens Cross Church there were proposals for a plaza and public square. The motorway would have continued in cutting at this location to reduce its visual impact and to allow easier access to the football stadium.
The motorway would have been constructed in cutting as it passed Maryhill, Queens Cross and Firhill. This impressions, looking south, shows the road passing the Mackintosh Church at Springbank Street.
The motorway would have been constructed adjacent to Maryhill Road as it headed towards the junction at Bilsland Drive. A number of surface street realignments were recommended to allow for the motorway, and for the most part these were completed. Examples of this can be seen on Maryhill Road from the Maryhill Fire Station to the junction with Queen Margaret Drive. Here the existing road was moved to the south to create the necessary width for the motorway.
An extension of Queen Margaret Drive to provide a link from Bilsland Drive to Great Western Road was also constructed.
A number of slip roads would have been constructed in an attempt to achieve maximum benefits from the motorway. This would have been accommodated within the limited land available – a number of tight radius curves which proved so effective on the Ring Road would be utilised again. Between Bilsland Drive and Possil Road the empty land created for the motorway has mostly been refilled. A number of housing developments during the early to mid-2000’s were responsible.
Like the Monkland Motorway, the canal provided an obvious line for the route which would have reduced additional community severance issues. At this time the canal was closed to navigation – although regeneration schemes for the Forth and Clyde Canal had already been proposed by this stage. A project to construct a new berthing point for canal traffic was completed in 2005. The scheme, adjacent to Speirs Wharf, effectively ended any future roads tying in with the M8 at this location. More on this below.
This artist's impression shows the motorway passing between Garscube Road and Firhill Stadium in a cutting. This was chosen to reduce the visual impact of the road on its surroundings, particularly at Queens Cross.
From Bilsland Drive the road would have continued in a north westerly direction, still on the line of the canal. It would have passed through the eastern side of Maryhill crossing streets such as Lochburn Road and Thornton Street. Allowance was made for new housing schemes which were in development to ensure the route did not interfere with future plans. Around this location the road began to move some distance from Maryhill Road and the motorway is shown as being in cutting to reduce its visual impact.
At Stockingfield Locks the motorway moved away from the line of canal. It was intended that the Forth & Clyde Canal would be enhanced at this location to provide a recreational facility. The designers recommended that the Victorian features of the location, such as a footbridge at Baird' Brae, be refurbished and retained. In the Highway Plan report of 1965, the Kelvindale Expressway was shown to interchange with the motorway at this location. This original expressway proposal was scrapped in 1971, becoming the Cadder Link Road on a revised alignment. As the motorway passed Gilshochill it was to be built on the hillside. Detailed landscape proposals show that a large number of trees were to be used as a screen.
Proposed Route (1975)
The northern section of the motorway would have been constructed to the east of Maryhill and Summerston, making an allowance for Glasgow Corporation's plans for new housing developments. A temporary terminus of the motorway is shown at Killermont.
At the time of the proposals the section north west of Maryhill was predominantly green field in nature. There were plans for a large housing scheme in the Summerston area and it is for this reason that the line of road was altered from that in the Highway Plan to that in the 1975 proposals.
The road was altered to curve around the eastern side of this housing area. A junction was proposed at Cadder, adjacent to the railway branch line, to ensure adequate access to the Cadder Link Road and new housing areas. This junction would also have allowed access to the motorway from Balmore Road - another busy route located to the east.
North of Stockingfield, the road was designed to accommodate planned housing developments at Summerston. In this illustration the road is seen passing between the high rise flats of Glenavon Road and the former Glasgow School for the Deaf. Lochburn Road is below the motorway.
With plans for the North Link Motorway at a very early stage there was some debate around the final design of the interchange. A cloverleaf design was ultimately recommended over a roundabout. The route continued through agricultural land until it reached its terminus near Killermont, just to the south of Canniesburn Toll. This terminus was planned as a simple at grade roundabout with Maryhill Road near Killermont Avenue.
Some property acquisition and demolition would have been required and the report provided details of which buildings would have been affected. The junction was designed in such a way that the Lomond Motorway could be added easily in future.
The Maryhill Motorway would have terminated at Killermont Avenue, a few hundred yards south of Canniesburn Toll. It was anticipated that the Lomond Motorway extension would have followed within a few years.
Utilising the Canal
A major part of the Maryhill Motorway was to be located on the Glasgow Branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal. This provided a convenient line for a new motorway from the Inner Ring Road at Woodside and reduced issues arising from community severance. Historically, the canal fed water from the Monkland Canal at Pinkston to the Forth and Clyde Canal at Stockingfield and although closed to navigation in 1950, continued to supply large quantities of water to industrial premises. To ensure this could continue, and to allow for construction of the new road, it was intended to place the canal within pipes below ground level. Such works had been successfully undertaken prior to the construction of the Inner Ring Road and first stage of the Monkland Motorway and it was Glasgow Corporation’s intention that the new pipes would be an extension of that system.
An advance contract with an anticipated value of £2.8 million had been prepared with an additional £400,000 set aside for infilling. The contract would have seen the infilling of the basin at Pinkston and the infilling of the section from Speirs Wharf to Stockingfield.
Whilst looking to maintain the Forth and Clyde canal for leisure purposes (a report on this had been published in 1970), Glasgow Corporation was keen to remove other sections it had deemed a barrier to development. As with the Monkland Canal, the Glasgow Branch had become filled with rubbish and a number of children had drowned in it leading to calls for it to be infilled. The historic Maryhill Locks would have been unaffected by the construction of the motorway.
The Glasgow Branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal remains in use, having become an important part of the landscape in the north of the city. It was reconnected to Pinkston Basin in 2003 and is used by walkers, cyclists and watersports enthusiasts.
The Maryhill Motorway was one of the first motorways proposed in Glasgow's Highway Plan to be cancelled. Maryhill residents were outraged at the proposals to construct an urban motorway near their homes and by the early 1970s had launched a vociferous campaign against it. The construction of the Inner Ring Road through Charing Cross, and the impact it had on that area, only strengthened their resolve. In some cases songs were written about the struggle against the city planners in addition to protest marches and public petitions.
Public engagement exercises conducted by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Holford & Associates were organised to listen to concerns. These were very well attended with over 3300 people taking part in one case, and officials from the Corporation Office of Public Works were on hand to ensure residents were able to put their points across.
Following these exercises a number of changes to the scheme were recommended in an attempt to limit the visual impact of the scheme on adjacent communities. Some sections of road were now planned to be in cuttings rather than on flyovers or viaducts and some junction layouts were modified to reduce land requirements and overall scale. These changes were accepted by the Corporation planning committee and incorporated into the project, however local residents remained opposed.
Eventually a number of local councillors and Members of Parliament began to lobby against the construction of the route. With the creation of Strathclyde Regional Council in 1975 and a re-evaluation of the roads programme the scheme was ultimately dropped. New transport studies for the city did not include any routes through this corridor. The scheme was never part of the Scottish Development Department's road plans or their committed highway network.
The Maryhill scheme was noted as having a particularly high first year rate of return of 25% and was considered a high priority for completion. It was included within the Target 2 Network which was programmed from 1975 onwards. The effects of its cancellation can be felt today with chronic peak time congestion on Great Western Road, Maryhill Road and Balmore Road. The north western corner of the city has a distinct lack of road capacity with few, if any, enhancements made in the last half century. The large, wealthy suburban towns of Bearsden and Milngavie remain disconnected from the motorway system..
It has been argued that the Maryhill Motorway, combined with the Lomond and North Link Motorways is perhaps the “most needed” of any cancelled scheme from the Highway Plan. Some argue its construction would result in traffic benefits across a large part of the city, taking traffic away from the M8 in the city centre. This is extremely unlikely to happen, the construction of urban motorways adjacent to particularly deprived areas with low car ownership being particularly difficult to justify. In hindsight perhaps an expressway class road would have been most appropriate in this location and would not have resulted in the same negative reaction.
From the Archive
Interactive Route Map
In 1975, a detailed plan was prepared for the route of the Maryhill Motorway. A high resolution copy of the map from this report has been produced by the Glasgow Motorway 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 March 2021.
> From Concept to Cancellation: The Story of Glasgow's Inner Ring Road
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