Plans to reconnect peripheral areas of Glasgow and “radically transform” the city centre have been launched by an independent commission.
The Glasgow Connectivity Commission is calling for action to bridge the connectivity gap separating thriving areas of the city from those suffering from transport isolation and lack of opportunity.
The report published on Thursday, the first of two, focuses largely on the city centre, as it said any improvements to connectivity must start there, “reaching out through the arteries into the regional economy”.
It includes proposals which would pave the way for the biggest reconstitution of the city centre streetscape in nearly half a century, giving greater priority to pedestrians and allowing for the creation of public spaces “worthy of a great European city”.
Proposals include greater use of car parks and bus terminals in order to reduce the number of vehicles in the city centre, and speeding up and expanding the Avenues project to improve streetscapes.
The commission also urges Glasgow City Council to press ahead with plans to build a roof over the M8 at Charing Cross, creating a new pedestrian space outside the Mitchell Library.
Transport expert Professor David Begg, who chaired the commission, said: “Glasgow is a great European city and the economic powerhouse of Scotland. But not all of its citizens are connected to the opportunities the city provides – which is placing a barrier on its growth potential.
“And its streets, particularly in the city centre, do not offer an experience worthy of a great European city, the consequence of decades of planning decisions which have prioritised car use over pedestrians and denuded its public spaces.
“The recommendations included in this report offer an opportunity to radically transform Glasgow’s city centre – ensuring it becomes an attractive place to live, work, visit and invest – while better connecting all its citizens so as to deliver inclusive growth.
“We have built on the very positive work already being undertaken by Glasgow City Council, such as the Avenues project, Low Emission Zone, cycling schemes and recently formed bus partnership. But an incremental approach to these is not enough. Now is the time for radical action.”
The commission also said that Glasgow needs better buses if it is to grow and prosper, noting that people from socioeconomically deprived areas tend to depend more on bus services.
It calls for bus priority measures and service improvements to reverse the decline in customers and drive 25% passenger growth over five years.
The report also calls for the completion of a network of safe, high-quality, segregated cycling arterial routes connecting the city centre to suburbs and peripheral neighbourhoods, and segregated cycling corridors through the city centre which connect to these arterial routes.
The Glasgow Connectivity Commission was established last November by Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken and was asked to provide independent recommendations on improving Glasgow’s connectivity.
In June, it published interim findings showing that Glasgow, in comparison to similar successful European cities, had a far higher proportion of its city centre used by roads, low urban population density, a dramatic decline in bus use and gaps in its fixed rail network.
A second report will be published early next year which will address issues outwith the control of the council including development of the rail network, strategic road network and governance of transport planning.
Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “I’m sure people will agree that the findings and recommendations in the report are radical and potentially transformative.
“The report is an impressive piece of work and in the weeks and months ahead we will be considering these findings in detail and how the council should respond to them.”
She added: “I am confident that in the longer term the city will eventually see significant benefits flowing from the findings made by the commission.”
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson welcomed the recommendations in the report.
He said: “We are committed to encouraging lower carbon transportation and bus services have a big part to play in being part of the solution to tackling the challenges we face from pollution and congestion.
“The Transport Bill will provide a new statutory mechanism for bus partnership and we will work with Glasgow City Council and partners through the Bill process.
“We welcome this report and look forward to continuing to support the commission in its important work.“