MOTORISTS will finally be able to use the M74 motorway extension this week — but the road to its opening has not been smooth.
The five-mile stretch of road joins the M74 at Carmyle to the M8 at Kingston, providing further links through the south east of Glasgow.
It has taken three years to complete, and this week was officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester and infrastructure secretary Alex Neil — followed by the first public traffic after 7pm on Tuesday.
Speaking at the opening, Mr Neil said: “The new M74 wll bring major economic and social benefits.
“The daily rush hour congestion in and around Glasgow will also be eased, leading to improved travel which is good news for business, commuters and the many thousands of visitors coming to Scotland”.
The £692 million project was completed eight months ahead of schedule, and between £15m and £20m short of its original budget.
However the plan to introduce it has been more than 65 years in the making, with worries over costs, relocations and objections from communities nearby causing problems.
Despite the headaches involved in putting it in place, the new link has been touted as a much-needed addition for Glasgow business.
Stuart Patrick, chief executive of the Glasgow chamber of commerce, commented: “The extension will greatly reduce journey times from the area to key markets and improve access from the east of the city and Lanarkshire to Glasgow airport”.
However, not everyone views the new stretch of motorway as a welcome addition to the city.
The Scottish Greens described the opening as a “dark day” for Glasgow, and MSP Patrick Harvie added: “Successive Scottish governments have ignored the evidence and blundered on with this scheme.
“A fraction of this vast sum could have delivered major public transport improvements”.
Friends of the Earth Scotland have also campaigned against it since a 2005 inquiry ruled against the project, and the group’s chief executive, Stan Blackley, said that ministers giving it the go-ahead “remains one of the worst environmental decisions since the beginning of devolution”.