Larkhall – Milngavie Railway Project Evaluation Study Final Report


Larkhall – Milngavie Railway Project Overview


2.1. The Larkhall – Milngavie railway project opened in December 2005 and comprised two engineering schemes:

  • re-instatement of 4.7km of track from the junction near Hamilton to a new station at Larkhall with two additional stations at Merryton and Chatelherault; and
  • a 1.6km extension of the Northern Suburban line from Maryhill to Anniesland, with a new station at Kelvindale.

2.2. As well as the line re-instatements and station re-openings, two significant service enhancements to the Glasgow suburban rail network were implemented:

  • enhanced service frequency on the Milngavie branch from 2 to 4 trains per hour; and
  • enhanced service frequency on the Newton – Hamilton line from 2 to 4 trains per hour.

2.3. A map showing the route is shown below

Figure 1 Larkhall – Milngavie Rail Project

Figure 1 Larkhall – Milngavie Rail Project


2.4. The original Larkhall station opened in the early 1900s and connected the South Lanarkshire town to the suburban Glasgow rail network. However, the line to Larkhall was withdrawn in 1965 on the recommendation of the Beeching Report.

2.5. The idea of re-opening the Larkhall line was first raised in the mid-1980s and in 1992, Strathclyde Regional Council (SRC) carried out a major review of its transport strategy. The outcome was a number of proposals to enhance local transport, one of which was the Larkhall – Milngavie railway project. This would involve the reconstruction of the Larkhall line, as well as the second stage of reconstruction on the Northern Suburban Line between Maryhill and Anniesland. These changes were complemented by a range of changes to the timetable (predominantly service frequency improvements) providing enhanced services to many areas, from Milngavie in the north and to Larkhall in the south.

2.6. In 1994, British Rail, on behalf of SRC, submitted and obtained the necessary Parliamentary powers to acquire land for the project. This was followed by a review in 1996 by the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority (now the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, SPT) which confirmed the Larkhall – Milngavie project as a necessary and appropriate development of the heavy rail network to meet the public transport needs of the area.

2.7. Appraisal and analysis of the project by SPT between 1998 and 2000 included:

  • the original Outline Business Case[1];
  • a reappraisal in line with the New Approach to Appraisal (NATA) framework[2];
  • an appraisal of the wider economic and land-use impacts[3]; and
  • an economic cost-benefit analysis using the Strathclyde Integrated Transport Model (SITM)[4].

2.8. The cost-benefit analysis indicated a BCR of 0.66, with the majority of benefits coming from journey time benefits. However, significant non-quantifiable benefits such as regeneration of Larkhall and increasing access to education and job opportunities were considered more than sufficient to offset the deficit in the appraisal which included only monetised benefits.

2.9. Work on the Larkhall – Milngavie project began in 2004 and was completed in 2005 at a cost of £35 million.

Project Objectives

2.10. Prior to the completion of the project in 2005, Larkhall, with a population of over 15,000[5], was one of the largest settlements in the Glasgow conurbation that was not linked to the Strathclyde rail network.

2.11. Traditionally a mining and textiles area, many of Larkhall's industrial factories had closed in the 1980s resulting in high unemployment. The Larkhall – Milngavie project was therefore seen as a key catalyst in facilitating economic regeneration of Larkhall and other areas along the line, and link local communities to jobs, education and training opportunities.

2.12. Although the project targets were not explicitly defined at the outset, the implicit objectives can be summarised broadly as:

Project Objective 1: reconnect Larkhall to the rail network to allow the introduction of a half-hourly service;

Project Objective 2: double the frequency of services between Hamilton and central Glasgow and between Milngavie and central Glasgow to four trains per hour;

Project Objective 3: remove an operational bottleneck on the North Suburban line;

Project Objective 4: increase the attractiveness of Larkhall and Kelvindale and the surrounding areas for inward investment and land development;

Project Objective 5: offer social inclusion benefits for residents; and

Project Objective 6: encourage a modal shift towards public transport.

2.13. The first three can be considered as 'outputs' which enable the remaining 'outcome' objectives.

Evaluation of Project to Date

2.14. The following evaluations of the Larkhall – Milngavie project have been conducted to date:

  • a 'Lessons Learned' or 'Process Evaluation'[6] examined how well the project was implemented through interviews with key personnel involved in the project and concluded that the project had been a success but a number of improvements were identified;
  • actual demand for three of the new stations (Larkhall, Chatelherault and Merryton) was examined to determine how different it was from the original forecasts and, if so, the potential reasons behind the differences[7].

Evaluation Study Objectives

2.15. SYSTRA were commissioned by Transport Scotland in March 2014 to undertake an evaluation of the Larkhall – Milngavie railway project.

2.16 . The main objectives of the evaluation were:

  • to undertake a Stage 2 Outcome Evaluation of the Larkhall – Milngavie project; and
  • to review the draft Rail Evaluation Guidance drawn up by Transport Scotland Analytical Services.

Outcome Evaluation

2.17. A Stage 2 Outcome Evaluation is conducted on a project that has been in existence for a sufficient period to enable a comprehensive examination to be undertaken of actual performance against identified targets. It differs from a Stage 1 Outcome Evaluation which is conducted at an early stage in the life of a project and provides a high-level, early indication of performance.

2.18. The Stage 2 Outcome Evaluation conducted as part of this evaluation study included:

  • an assessment of the extent to which the project has met its objectives (section 2.12), the expected non-quantified benefits and the five Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) criteria;
  • an assessment of the Wider Economic Benefits (WEBs) generated by the project including agglomeration and productivity benefits, and improved labour supply; and
  • a comparison of outturn costs and benefits to determine whether the project has offered value for money through a recalculation of the project's Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR).

2.19. Additionally, the information and findings that would have been useful from the Process Evaluation and Stage 1 Outcome Evaluation (had one been carried out) were considered.

Rail Evaluation Guidance

2.20. Transport Scotland Analytical Services have produced draft guidance on the evaluation of major rail projects in Scotland. As part of this evaluation study, the draft guidance was reviewed and recommendations for improvements proposed in light of the Outcome Evaluation.

2.21. The outputs from the evaluation will be used to inform how Transport Scotland plans, appraises, delivers and evaluates future rail projects.

Report Structure

2.22. The structure of the report is as follows:

  • Chapter 3 presents the findings from the Process Evaluation;
  • Chapter 4 provides an overview of the Outcome Evaluation methodology;
  • Chapter 5 discusses the extent to which the project's objectives have been met;
  • Chapter 6 assesses the extent to which the project has satisfied the five STAG criteria;
  • Chapter 7 discusses the impacts of the project on the wider economy by examining a number of socio-economic indicators such as population and the housing market;
  • Chapter 8 discusses the extent to which the project has generated WEBs;
  • Chapter 9 reviews the actual station demand against what was forecast and provides potential reasons for any differences;
  • Chapter 10 presents the recalculation of the project's BCR to assess whether the project has offered value for money; and
  • Chapter 11 presents recommendations for the improvement and development of the draft Rail Evaluation Guidance in light of the findings of this evaluation study.