26 October 2017
Transform Scotland AGM, Glasgow City Chambers

Hi everyone! My name is Ellie Harrison. I’ve been living in Glasgow for the last nine years. And since moving here from Nottingham, I have become increasing more involved in public transport campaigning (as a volunteer) on both a local and national level.

I came to this from an environmental perspective – that is our desperate need for a rapid shift towards more sustainable modes of transport. Transport is the sector which contributes the most to our country’s carbon footprint. And, shamefully, it is the only sector which has actually increased its carbon footprint since Scotland’s world-leading Climate Act came in in 2009.

But I’m really passionate about public transport, because it is where environmental justice and social justice meet. This is particularly important in Glasgow – the city with the lowest car ownership in Scotland, where less than ½ of all households have access to cars.

So today, I’m representing the Think Outside the Circle campaign. This campaign was launched in 2016 with a 38 Degrees petition, which now has 7,130 signatures. We are demanding that Glasgow raises its ambitions in designing and building a world-class public transport system. Specifically by extending the Subway network, so that it reaches all corners of the city.

Glasgow’s Subway was built in 1896. It is one of the oldest undergrounds in the world. And yet, shamefully, it is the only one never to have been extended. It is the only part of Glasgow’s public transport network still in public ownership. £246 million of public money is currently being spent on its refurbishment, yet it still only primarily serves the wealthiest parts of the city (particularly the West End). Meanwhile, people in the poorest part of the city have to make do with shambolic, over-priced, privately-owned buses instead. How can that be fair?

We want to see the same high quality, affordable service that SPT provides on our current tiny Subway, made accessible to people all over the city, specifically in the areas where car ownership is so low. In parts of the East End, for example, less than 34% of households have access to cars. (plus Sunday evenings!)

This is not a new idea! Extending the Subway has been discussed on-and-off for the last 70 years. This map specifically shows proposals from 2007 for an ‘East End Circle’, which SPT promised to deliver “in time for the Commonwealth Games”.

Our campaign wants to put this ambitious vision firmly back on the table. And as our petition shows, there is huge public support. This is not a question of whether or not we can afford it, it is a question of political priorities.

The Scottish Government found the £692 million required to extend the M74. And it’s since found another £60 million for the so-called ‘East End Regeneration Route’ – another motorway ploughing through the heart of the East End, which only the privilege minority of car owners will be able to use.

And the disruption of building it should not be an obstacle either, having put up with the construction of all these motorways over so many decades, Glasgow more than anywhere, knows how to cope with major infrastructural works.

If you visit London, Copenhagen, Berlin or other forward-thinking European cities you’ll see they are all in the process of extending their underground networks as we speak. Meanwhile Glasgow is being left even further behind.

At Glasgow’s Transport Summit in this very room on 27 September, their was unanimous agreement that the era of the private motor car must come to an end. It is time that our city put its money where its mouth is and takes the bold steps steps necessary to replace Glasgow’s dirty, noisy, out-dated road network with something far more civilised.