Glasgow Tube extends to nights

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

Home » Glasgow Tube extends to nights

Published: 12th September 2016

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


As Londoners enjoy 24-hour access to the Tube, Scottish commuters are also reaping the benefits of a multi-million pound revamp of Glasgow’s historic subway system. However, the glossy facades and high-tech systems that can now be found in city centre underground stations are just the tip of the iceberg.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) have big plans for the city’s subway system, including the introduction of a London-style night-service and brand new, state-of-the-art rolling stock. But as the Glasgow underground rolls into the twenty-first century, we ask, what else do SPT have in store?

First up, the proposed night service – something which is seen as essential for the future economic and commercial well-being of this vibrant city. A recent study conducted by Glasgow Caledonian University was tasked with gauging the impact of a night-service on the economy of the city. The results were startlingly in its favour.

Professor John Lennon, author of the study, stated: “A big part of what cities offer to visitors and residents is transportation. We limit the night-time economy significantly if there are barriers to it.”

He noted that competing cities, such as Manchester and London, were enthusiastically evolving a 24-hour travel plan, adding that: “Any extension to underground trains later into the night can only be beneficial for the city. The idea that we are stopping the service at a time when other cities are in full swing makes us less competitive for visitors.”

But how do the findings stack up with the reality? The study showed that Glasgow’s night-time economy generates £2.16 billion for the city and supports 16,000 jobs. These statistics include activity in bars, restaurants, clubs and fitness centres.

The extended service would provide late-night revellers with an alternative to taxi queues and sporadic night buses. Currently SPT tackle this by extending the service by an hour on occasions when large scale events, such as music concerts and festivals, are held in the city. At all other times, the last train leaves the centre around 11:30pm (6pm on Sundays).

SPT are keen to mimic other UK cities, but at this stage it is unclear whether the subway will run around-the-clock, like the Tube, or provide an extended night service. Either way, academics and transport representatives alike are keen to stress the huge economic benefits such a move will bring for Glasgow.

You may be wondering why a major UK city hasn’t tackled this infrastructure issue sooner. As with many projects, time and money have been the restricting factors.

Currently, the subway survives on a tight schedule of twilight work. Owing to its age, it is constantly undergoing a programme of maintenance work, much of which has to be carried out overnight. It goes without saying, at the venerable age of 120, the work completed so far has been welcomed by both rail staff and travellers.

Similarly, the subway’s 36-year-old trains are also becoming more difficult to keep running. Don’t be deceived by the engines’ swanky new orange and grey livery, many are running with parts that date back to World War Two.

Through a feat of engineering that rivals many of the world’s biggest construction projects, almost 200 engineers have been toiling in some severely confined spaces to ensure the future of rail travel in Glasgow.

The enigmatically named ‘Station 16’ (there are 15 public stations on the Glasgow subway) is the venue for SPT’s research and development team. It’s here that Glasgow’s futuristic driverless trains, due to be operational by 2020, are being put through their paces. The bulk of the upgrade work is nowhere near as dramatic but, many would argue, even more important. The installation of new signalling, along with the upgrading of Glasgow’s ancient tunnels, is well underway and on target for its 2020 completion.

A scan of the SPT website gives a firm idea of what to expect from the £288 million modernisation process. Sleek colours, bold lines, a friendly feel and some hard graft are on display through time lapse photography of construction work. The crowning glory of this investment is expected to be the introduction of Scotland’s first underground night service.

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