THIS past week has seen a huge step forward taken in our plans for an entire new mode of transport for Glasgow. Scotland’s national transport agency has confirmed that it has recommended that a Glasgow Metro be taken forward as a priority in the coming years. Transport Scotland has made a really compelling economic, environmental and social case for Metro to service our city and its surrounding areas. This is exactly the kind of project Glasgow needs to stimulate our economic recovery from the Covid pandemic and to cement our growing reputation as a thriving, inclusive, modern and international city.

From day one as leader of Glasgow City Council I have been committed to addressing the issues of pollution, congestion and poor transport links which exclude far too many citizens from employment, learning and social opportunities. It was also clear that successive local policies which prioritised the private car in a city where more than half of households don’t even own one was holding Glasgow and Glaswegians back from achieving our potential.

Ignored for far too long, these issues had to be addressed. It was quite a coup for the City Government to secure the services of one of the UK’s leading authorities on transport issues to provide us with a raft of recommendations. Professor David Begg and his panel of experts who formed the Connectivity Commission gave us a blueprint to improve our transport offer and the general attractiveness of Glasgow to citizens, investors and visitors.

But it did so much more than that. For the first time we had a set of recommendations which looked at how transport could really improve the life chances of our citizens and the wellbeing of its communities. This was at the core of the Commission’s findings. They made it clear that the success of Glasgow and its surrounding region is absolutely fundamental to the Scottish economy and that we should be a priority for national investment. And by far the most eye-catching and transformational recommendation was for the Metro.

Since then, working with council officers and other partners such as the Chamber of Commerce, I have continued to develop and promote the need for Metro and I was thrilled to see Transport Scotland put forward such a strong case in its review of projects it wishes to see taken forward.

What Metro will look like and the routes it will take will have to be determined in business and technical cases in the months ahead. Once that’s complete a final decision will be taken on whether to proceed or not. It may be a combination of tram, light rail or metro rail, reusing disused former railway routes or converting some existing rail lines to take Metro carriages. We will need to see what works best with the existing transport networks we have. It was, though, really encouraging to see specific references to the City Government’s ambitions to deliver on the regeneration potential of our riverside and revitalise the communities on its banks through the Clyde Mission project, which I’ve discussed previously in this column. It’s inconceivable that a Metro will not connect Glasgow Airport to the city centre via key destinations on the south banks of the Clyde such as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the emerging Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.

I was also pleased to see the case for Metro made explicitly within the context of the City Government’s social and economic inclusion agenda. We know that unaffordable and unreliable public transport has long limited access to job opportunities for residents of low-income communities in the city. Transport is too often unaffordable, unreliable and poorly connected, making it a major barrier to employment and not the enabler it should be. Access to healthcare, especially for older people, and education and training for younger citizens, is also often reliant on good public transport connections. Glasgow Metro will have a key role to play in tackling social exclusion.

And it will be critical in helping Glasgow meet our targets on reducing greenhouse gases. I’ve always said that making Glasgow a more sustainable city is also about making the lives of citizens better. It has to be about those things which are relevant to their daily lives. As we seek to encourage people out of private cars and reduce the emissions they generate, we have to provide an attractive alternative. Metro can do just that. We expect a final decision in autumn, around about the time Glasgow will host the United Nations climate conference, COP26. What better signal to the world that we are committed here in Glasgow to a cleaner, greener and safer planet than investing in a project that not only helps our city make its contribution to that global effort, but also improves our communities and the lives of our citizens and provides the stimulus our inclusive and sustainable economic recovery needs?

AT the time of writing we’re fast approaching the one-million mark for the number of our citizens here in Scotland who have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

We’re making real progress in the vaccine programme, achieving the highest daily figures and on-track to ensuring that all our over-70s and the extremely vulnerable will have had their jag by mid-February.

On a personal level, it was a massive relief that my own parents had their jags in the past week or so. It was a genuine privilege to witness first-hand the efforts of our soldiers and council-family staff transforming public buildings into vaccination centres and now seeing the outcomes of that.

Glasgow City Council stands ready to assist in whatever way we can.