Road im­pact

Rutherglen Reformer - - Front Page - Dou­glas Dickie Let us know what you think of the road by email­ing your thoughts to news@ruther­glen­re­

There con­tin­ues to be dis­agree­ment over the im­pact of the M74 ex­ten­sion ex­actly five years af­ter the road opened.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say it has in­creased pol­lu­tion in Ruther­glen but sup­port­ers reckon it has at­tracted in­vest­ment.

It was decades in the pipe­line, cost nearly £ 700mil­lion and caused a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment for over a decade.

But in just five years, the M74 ex­ten­sion has be­come a fa­mil­iar part of Ruther­glen.

The road of­fi­cially opened on June 28, 2011, with both op­po­nents and sup­port­ers wait­ing with baited breath to see what im­pact it has had.

Those be­hind the road as­sured the Burgh it would cre­ate jobs, bring in­vest­ment into the town and, cru­cially, help al­le­vi­ate con­ges­tion and pol­lu­tion on the Main Street.

How­ever, those who op­posed the plans said it would di­vide com­mu­ni­ties, ac­tu­ally cre­ate more pol­lu­tion and po­ten­tially take busi­ness away from the Main Street. One such per­son was Su­san Martin. She warned the road would in­vite more traf­fic into the Burgh, and she be­lieves pol­lu­tion level sta­tis­tics have backed up her view.

Ear­lier this year, it was re­vealed pol­lu­tion on Ruther­glen Main Street had ac­tu­ally ex­ceeded ac­cepted lev­els ev­ery year since the road opened.

“Peo­ple go­ing to the mo­tor­way and com­ing from the mo­tor­way are caus­ing more pol­lu­tion,” she says.

“It’s ac­tu­ally added to the prob­lem on the Main Street, and that’s not some­thing that was sold to the peo­ple.

“More needs to be done to com­bat that. Ob­vi­ously they have tried to bring in more cy­cle lanes but those are pretty poor.”

Friends of the Earth Scot­land air pol­lu­tion cam­paigner Emilia Hanna is even more scathing about the road: “Build­ing new roads to tackle con­ges­tion is like putting ex­tra notches in your belt to try and tackle obe­sity. Big­ger roads such as the M74 en­cour­age more peo­ple to take their cars, which ul­ti­mately leads to greater con­ges­tion and even more dan­ger­ous air pol­lu­tion.”

South La­nark­shire Coun­cil’s Shirley Clel­land, head of fleet and en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices, con­cedes the im­pact on air pol­lu­tion had not been as pos­i­tive as they hoped.

She said: “The de­tailed as­sess­ment in 2013 showed that al­though air quality had im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly, some ar­eas were still show­ing lo­calised is­sues, par­tic­u­larly where build­ings have cre­ated a ‘street canyon’ ef­fect. Ruther­glen is now an air quality man­age­ment area and the aim will be to tackle lo­calised air quality is­sues.”

One thing the road has done is im­prove Ruther­glen’s links with places like Glas­gow Air­port.

We asked dozens of driv­ers their thoughts on the ex­ten­sion, al­most all of whom said it had been a ben­e­fit.

The im­pact lo­cally in terms of tak­ing traf­fic is hard to judge, but in a wider sense it has led to re­duc­tions in traf­fic along the M8 ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures from Trans­port Scot­land.

They also say there are 5,500 fewer ve­hi­cles on ‘lo­cal roads’ than be­fore the ex­ten­sion opened.

South La­nark­shire Coun­cil are cur­rently in­volved in an eval­u­a­tion project with Glas­gow City Coun­cil on the im­pact of the road.

Head of roads, Gor­don Mackay in­sisted: “There has been a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in traf­fic lev­els on the lo­cal road net­work in and around Cam­bus­lang and Ruther­glen as a con­se­quence of the M74 Com­ple­tion Project. In ad­di­tion, there are very ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits in terms of sub­stan­tially re­duced jour­ney times from South La­nark­shire to des­ti­na­tions west of Glas­gow, par­tic­u­larly the air­port.

“Not­with­stand­ing this, as the econ­omy be­gins to re­cover and new de­vel­op­ments are built over­all traf­fic lev­els are ex­pected to grad­u­ally in­crease.

“It is there­fore im­por­tant that projects like Cathkin Re­lief Road de­liver the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments to en­sure the road net­work in the Ruther­glen area has the nec­es­sary ca­pac­ity to ac­com­mo­date these in­creases and sup­port new de­vel­op­ment.”

An­other mooted bonus of the road was eco­nomic re­gen­er­a­tion, with the Scottish Gov­ern­ment pre­dict­ing it would help cre­ate 20,000 jobs by 2030.

Jim Clark, se­nior man­ager for com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Clyde Gate­way, is in no doubt the im­pact of the road has been pos­i­tive.

“In the five years since the road opened there has been a re­mark­able change in an around the Ruther­glen area,” he says.

“De­vel­op­ments like the Ruther­glen Links wouldn’t be as at­trac­tive with­out the mo­tor­way links or the prox­im­ity to the junc­tion.

“It has brought in­vest­ment and jobs to the area and has de­liv­ered in terms of the econ­omy.”

Trans­port Scot­land are also con­fi­dent the road has been a suc­cess.

A spokesman said: “It has brought many ben­e­fits for road users and lo­cals in­clud­ing im­proved jour­ney times and re­duced traf­fic con­ges­tion on roads across Glas­gow and South La­nark­shire in­clud­ing the busy M8 and some wellused lo­cal roads.

“The new road has also led to a marked re­duc­tion in the num­ber of road ac­ci­dents, im­prov­ing safety for peo­ple trav­el­ling on it.”

Driv­ing am­bi­tion Then trans­port sec­re­tary Alex Neil MSP sur­veys the new road at its of­fi­cial open­ing in 2011

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