Five Centuries separate the two Bridges at the end of Blantyre, spanning over the Clyde at Bothwell. One is an ancient bridge, designated an ancient monument and steeped in history. The other is the road bridge built over the water when the final section of £12.2m East Kilbride A725 Expressway was built in 1983.
The Expressway was finally completed and opened fully on December 15th 1983. The road had been open for quite some time prior to that, but only the High Blantyre sections up to East Kilbride. It was constructed in 3 phases.
The first stage of the Expressway was built between Crossbasket and the Whirlies roundabout at East Kilbride. You would drive out of High Blantyre on to a fast road. Built in 1967, it cost over £600,000 at the time, a lofty sum. There is a wide tunnel under the Expressway at High Blantyre. The tunnel permits water coming off the upper Southern slopes of Blantyre to safely travel under the expressway heading back into the Calder on the northern side of the road.
The second phase was Crossbasket to Auchinraith. This involved removing the pit bings on Auchinraith Road and at Priestfield, which was done in 1975. It extended the A725 from the present eastbound sliproad at Stoneymeadow Road adjacent to the General’s Bridge, and connected to the roundabout at Auchinraith. It opened in October 1978, it’s cost spiraling hugely due to unexpected land acquisitions. Further construction difficulties saw the road being reprofiled once the project was underway, and costs ended up being £5.2m.
During 1983, the final section was constructed from Auchinraith down to the roundabout at Raith which was particularly expensive due to having to overcome the Bothwell Bridge itself. Great care had to be taken around the old Bothwell Bridge protecting it fully as parts of it dated to the 15th century. The Bothwell Bridge was built between 1400 and 1486. According to the expressway architects, evidence of that original bridge is still located within the core of the existing Bothwell Bridge. Centuries ago, it was only 12 foot wide and rose from a steep 20 foot incline from the nearby Bothwell Road. It was crowned by a towering portculis gate tower. Beside it in 1679 the Covenanters were routed by the forces of Charles II. In 1822, it was widened by 22 foot, modernised and the approaches levelled with the addition of massive supporting masonry abutments. In the late 1890s, footpaths were added which it has remained largely unaltered since then. During the Expressway construction, the contractors were able to dispell a myth that somehow a 5th arch would be under the road approaches. This was not the case and the bridge was confirmed as only having 4 arches. Of course today, the portculis tower is no longer there either.
The Expressway saw a Blantyre wish for better infrastructure be fulfilled that was first mooted a generation before. The final cost of the whole expressway was around £18million, which by today’s standards would have cost £52m.
Councillor Malcolm Waugh of Strathclyde Regional Council upon opening the completed road announced, he had also been personally waiting for that day to happen, which would finally see an end to congestion in Blantyre’s Glasgow Road and Main Street. It was also a historic day for William McAlonan who was one of the design team responsible for producing the huge and massively complex Whirlies Roundabout.
The slip roads at High Blantyre at Douglas Street were added in 1994 and 1995.