A CAMPAIGNING politician fears that Renfrewshire’s transport links are to suffer another blow following the controversial decision to scrap plans for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link.
Paisley North MSP Wendy Alexander is concerned that proposals to continue the Fastlink rapid transit system from Glasgow out to Braehead and Renfrew are also to be dropped.
Fastlink will see passengers transported on ‘trams with tyres’ that will have their own dedicated lane to ensure they are not caught up in traffic jams.
The Scottish Government last week dropped plans for the £400million airport rail link but pledged to support Strathclyde Partnership for Transport’s (SPT) plans for Fastlink.
Now Ms Alexander is demanding reassurances that the Fastlink project will run all the way to Renfrew – instead of grinding to a halt at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital.
She said: “The Finance Secretary, John Swinney, said in his budget speech that the government supported the Fastlink plans to the new Southern General Hospital and Commonwealth Games site but there was no mention of Renfrewshire.
“I have also been told by the Scottish Government that they will only be funding the Fastlink plans between the city centre and the SECC and the new Southern General Hospital site.
“This news is a bitter blow. All the economic evidence shows that the line should come all the way to Renfrew.”
Yesterday, a spokesman for the Scottish Government confirmed their financial contribution for Fastlink will be for an initial phase between Glasgow city centre, the SECC and the new Southern General Hospital.
He said: “We are committed to improving rail links between Glasgow and Paisley, as well as shuttle buses between Paisley and Glasgow Airport.
“The financial contribution to Fastlink will be for those sites which are important to the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
“We are talking to SPT about how we can play a role in funding Fastlink but the actual delivery of it is a matter for them in terms of location.”
Alistair Watson, chair of SPT, has played down the concerns raised by Ms Alexander – and insisted the transport organisation remains committed to bringing Fastlink to Renfrew.
He told the Paisley Daily Express: “The plans include three local government authorities – Glasgow, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.
“It has never been the intention of Fastlink to end at the Southern General and it wouldn’t be our intention to end at Renfrew.
“In the future, we’d like to look at extending further into Renfrewshire but that is aspirational at the moment.
“Our support for bringing Fastlink to Renfrew is unequivocal.”
Initial estimates have put the cost of extending the Fastlink line to Renfrew as between £40million and £100million.
There would be stops at Braehead, Renfrew Riverside and Renfrew Ferry, with the line finishing in Renfrew town centre.
Planning permission for the project was granted by lead partner Glasgow City Council in 2006 and an in-depth feasibility study is currently being carried out with a view to getting work under way.
Derek Mackay, Leader of Renfrewshire Council, believes the decision to scrap the Glasgow Airport Rail Link plans means the Fastlink project is now closer to becoming a reality than ever before.
He said: “Fastlink was going nowhere fast and had little prospect of being realised but, after the GARL announcement, we welcome the fact that it is becoming a real prospect.
“Renfrewshire Council is a key partner in Fastlink and we are lobbying hard with cross-party and cross-government discussions to try to make this a reality.
“Since the GARL announcement, I have been working behind the scenes to make a case for Fastlink to be extended out to Renfrewshire and we are committed to that.”