Celebrating 50 years of Engineering Excellence

This week marks the 50th Anniversary of the completion of the first section of the M74 motorway - The Hamilton Bypass.

On December 2nd, 1966, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Right Honorable Willie Ross, officially opened the first nine mile stretch of dual, two lane carriageway between Junction 6, Hamilton and Draffan, south of Larkhall.

The Hamilton Bypass, which was the most extensive motorway constructed in Scotland and was one of the largest civil engineering projects undertaken at the time, opened to traffic a few days later on December 6, 1966.

As road transportation continued to increase throughout the 1950s and 60s, the A74 became the preferred route between Scotland and England, with around 75% of all cross border traffic using it.

Bypassing some of Lanarkshire’s biggest towns, including Larkhall, Hamilton and Uddingston, the new route provided an immediate solution to the chronic traffic congestion of the early 1960s.

Graeme Reid, Transport Scotland’s Project Sponsor for the M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project, said: “Over the last 50 years, traffic flows have steadily increased on this main arterial route between Scotland and England, with the junctions and carriageways of the M74 struggling to cope with the high volume on a daily basis.

“The original Hamilton Bypass has been a victim of its own success and once again we are working to create a motorway network fit for the demands of today’s road user. It’s great to see the images from the 1960s and to contrast those with the complex and challenging construction underway today.

“We look forward to the completion of this £500m project to upgrade Central Scotland’s motorway network  in Spring 2017, and to enjoy the benefits of the new, improved routes for the next 50 years.”

This first nine mile stretch of the original Hamilton Bypass took approximately two and a half years to complete, while stage two, the dual, three lane section from Hamilton to Maryville (approx. 4 miles) proved more complex and took approximately three years - finally opening to traffic in August 1968.

In 1966, it was estimated that 35,000 vehicles would use the road, rising to 80,000 by 1980. Today the route carries in excess of 100,000 vehicles per day and the M74 remains a crucial link in Central Scotland’s motorway network.

Fifty years on since its completion, the M74 between Junction 6, Hamilton and Junction 3A Daldowie is currently being upgraded as part of the £500m M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project.

Scottish Roads Partnership began construction on this major infrastructure project in February 2014, with works to widen the existing M74 by creating 9km of four lane carriageway in both directions, now nearing completion.

Improvement works continue to upgrade the M74 Junction 5 at Raith Interchange. Formally known as Bothwellhaugh Interchange, the new junction includes the creation of a 560m long underpass below the existing roundabout.

Consisting of more than 1600 piles, the underpass is now clearly visible having been fully excavated, and will provide a free flow link for traffic between the Bellshill Bypass and the East Kilbride Expressway once complete in Spring 2017.

In addition, three new bridges have also been constructed to carry the motorway and local traffic over the new underpass, separating the traffic on the A725 from that using the M74.

These major improvement works will also create a new cycle path and pedestrian walkway between Bothwell and Strathclyde Country Park, providing much improved accessibility and safety by segregating pedestrians and cyclists from motorists.

Graeme added: “The improvements will segregate the A725 and M74 through traffic, removing significant traffic volume from Raith roundabout. This will also support wider journey time benefits on the M8 and surrounding network, improving journey times by 15 to 20 minutes, and will improve the reliability of journeys on the A725 and the M74 with direct economic benefits to road users.”

Stuart Baird, creator of the Glasgow Motorways Archive, said: “The Hamilton Bypass was one of Scotland’s first motorways and it transformed travel right across Lanarkshire and the central belt. Research has unearthed an illuminating glimpse of life in 60s Scotland with many interesting facts, figures and long hidden photographs for anyone with an interest to enjoy.”

Notes to editors

A new page celebrating the 50th anniversary of this project can be found at www.glasgows-motorways.co.uk

Published 5 Dec 2016