From the illustrated social history book…research paid for by Paul Veverka
“Blantyre – Glasgow Road, The Real Story” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016 – 2018.
A725 East Kilbride Expressway
The important infrastructure roadway link in the area is designated the A725, which bypasses Blantyre after crossing over Glasgow Road and takes traffic from the Raith Interchange to East Kilbride. It feeds Blantyre at various sliproads. The section from Whirlies Roundabout to Raith Interchange resulted from the need to provide higher quality routes from Hamilton to East Kilbride and replace the inadequate A776 Stoneymeadow Road from High Blantyre and the B7012 via Bothwell Bridge. It was eventually included within the recommendations of the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study as a proposed dual carriageway link to the M74.
Five Centuries separate 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, so vital to commuters today, was constructed in 3 phases.
1) 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 1966 and 1967, it cost over £600,000 at the time, a lofty sum by comparison to the original budget of £382,000. This section of the Expressway was then and still is named officially as Hamilton Road, with the EK Expressway the official name of the future road that was to be built from High Blantyre to Raith. In January 1967, stories were filtering to the press about escalating costs due to unforeseen ground conditions and behind 2 months late. Councilors spun stories about how the straight, modern road would negate the need of Stoneymeadow Road traffic, returning the Stoneymeadow Road back to having a more rural feel. Mr John Adamson, the county roads engineer released progress updates to the press, staying in January 1967, “Road conditions have been worse than we anticipated” but he would not reveal the escalated cost sum and it was not known until completion. During construction, instances of accidents on Stoneymeadow Road were as frequent as ever and the public in general looked forward to a more modern and direct route to East Kilbride, which avoided the traffic hazard of General’s Bridge. This section eventually opened in April 1967. 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. Contractor was James, Anderson & King. Designer was Lanark County Council.
2) 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 its cost spiraling hugely due to unexpected land acquisitions. Further construction difficulties saw the road being re-profiled once the project was underway, and costs ended up being £5.2m. The slip roads at High Blantyre at Douglas Street were added in 1994 and 1995. Contractor was Murdoch MacKenzie Ltd. Designer was Strathclyde Regional Council.
3) 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. The expressway crosses over Blantyre’s Glasgow Road next to the Lidl Supermarket at the site of the former Caldwell Hall and Rosendale Place.
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. During the Expressway construction, the contractors were able to dispel 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 portcullis tower is no longer there either and the bridge was reconstructed in the 1820’s. The Expressway saw a Blantyre wish for better infrastructure be fulfilled that was first mooted a generation before. It was finally completed and opened fully on December 15th 1983 although of course the other sections had been opened for some time before this. The final cost of the whole expressway was around £18 million, which by today’s standards would have cost £52m.
Councilor 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 at East Kilbride. Contractor was Murdoch MacKenzie Ltd. Designer was Strathclyde Regional Council.
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