Happy 50th Birthday to the Kingston Bridge

50 years ago today the Kingston Bridge was opened by Her Majesty the Queen Mother in 1970. The bridge over the River Clyde connects the north and south of Glasgow between the Anderston and Tradeston/Kingston areas.

Aerial photo view of the Kingston Bridge from above.
This aerial view of the bridge has been created using Digimap Aerial, available to UofG staff and students. You can find out more about the database here.

Between the 1940s and the 1960s it was becoming clear that vehicle use was increasing dramatically with no signs of slowing. Glasgow was becoming gridlocked and a solution was needed.

Image shows chart of household car availability every 10 years between 1951 and 2010. The number of people without access to a car is as follows: 1951 14%, 1961 31%, 1971 52%, 1981 60%, 1989/91 67%, 1998/2000 72%, and 2010 75%.
In 1951 only 14% of the population had access to a household car. Twenty years later in 1971 more than half the population had access to a household car.1

At the time, motorways running through cities appeared a modern and progressive concept, and the Bruce Report of the 1940s suggested a vast traffic improvement program which included an inner ring road around the city.

In the 1960s, Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick and Partners developed on Bruce’s earlier ideas and the Kingston Bridge was planned to form the western edge of the inner ring road. The initial details can be seen in their 1962 Interim report on the Glasgow inner ring road.

At the start of the project in 1967, the Scottish Development Department estimated the cost of the Kingston Bridge would be £11.5m2. On it’s completion, three years later, the bridge was finished at exactly that cost.3

In a newspaper article on the opening day of the Kingston Bridge in 1970, the Financial Times reported that the existing four bridges over the Clyde were starting to struggle under the volume of traffic.

The growth of motor traffic into and through the city centre has been building up so rapidly in recent years that experts claim by 1975 these four bridges would have reached complete saturation point. At peak periods traffic is reduced to 10 mph despite the efforts of the corporation to ease congestion by restricting one of the four lanes in the principal one-way streets to public transport and by doubling the parking meter charges.4

Map showing the daily volume of traffic over Glasgow's bridges in 1970. George V Bridge 21,000, Glasgow Bridge 20,000, Victoria Bridge 20,000, Albert Bridge 17,000, Kingston Bridge 70,000.
Ordnance Survey map5 with the daily volume of traffic over Glasgow’s four bridges in 19704, and the anticipated volume of 70,000 vehicles per day over the new Kingston Bridge. (By 2005 over 120,000 vehicles were using the Kingston Bridge6 every day.)

The Kingston Bridge quickly became a main artery between north and south. Our love of cars continued to grow, with the number of licensed vehicles in Great Britain increasing from 4 million in 1950 to 34 million in 2010.1

Digimap Roam map showing the south east exit ramps and two lanes heading east that abruptly stop.
This current view of the south-east on and off ramps has been created using Digimap Ordnance Survey Roam available to UofG staff and students. You can find more information about the database here.

The map above shows the on and off ramps at the south east of the Kingston Bridge. There are also two lanes that abruptly halt in mid-air creating a bridge to nowhere. These lanes were intended to link the west edge of the inner ring road to the next stage of construction, the south edge. After public opposition to the plans, the south and east edges of the ring road were never completed, and the bridge to nowhere remains to this day.

Photo of the Kingston Bridge from the quay car park on the south side.
The Kingston Bridge from the Quay carpark on the south side.

If you need statistics, government policy, or maps for your research, we can help! We may be working from home at the moment, but we still have access to plenty of material. Just get in touch Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 by email.

1. Department for Transport (2011) Transport Statistics Great Britain 2011
1. Scottish Development Department, Report for 1967, Cmnd 3553, p.59
2. Scottish Development Department, Report for 1970, Cmnd 4625, p.11
4. Arthur, D. “New Road Pattern to End Congestion.” Glasgow and Kingston Bridge: Financial Times Survey. Financial Times, 26 June 1970, p. 13. Financial Times Historical Archive.
5. Ordnance Survey [Great Britain] 1:10,000 Series, sheet NS56 SE (1967)
6. Department for Transport, Road Traffic Statistics.

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