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Glasgow Central station

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Grid reference

26.610 million

+44 845 748 4950

Local authority
Station code

31 July 1879

Managed by
Glasgow Central station

Number of platforms
17 (including 2 on lower level)

Gordon St, Glasgow G1 3SL, UK

Edinburgh Waverley railway st, Euston railway station, Manchester Piccadilly station, Birmingham New Street station, Preston railway station

Flash mob glasgow central station kennett timepieces final version

Glasgow Central (Scottish Gaelic: Glaschu Mheadhain, Scots: Glesga Central) is the major mainline rail terminus in Glasgow, Scotland. The station was opened by the Caledonian Railway on 1 August 1879 and is one of nineteen managed by Network Rail. It is the northern terminus of the West Coast Main Line (397 miles (640 km) north of London Euston), and for inter-city services between Glasgow and England. The other main city-centre railway station in Glasgow is Glasgow Queen Street.


With over 30 million passengers in 2015-16, Glasgow Central is the twelfth-busiest railway station in Britain, and the busiest in Scotland. According to Network Rail, over 38 million people use it annually, 80% of whom are passengers. The station is protected as a category A listed building.

Original station

The original station, opened on 1 August 1879 on the north bank of the River Clyde, had eight platforms and was linked to Bridge Street station by a railway bridge over Argyle Street and a four-track railway bridge, built by Sir William Arrol, which crossed the Clyde to the south. The station was built over the site of Grahamston village, whose central street (Alston Street) was demolished to make way for the station platform.

The station was soon congested. In 1890, a temporary solution of widening the bridge over Argyle Street and inserting a ninth platform on Argyle Street bridge was completed. It was also initially intended to increase Bridge Street station to eight through lines and to increase Central station to 13 platforms.

Low-level station

The low-level platforms, originally two island platforms, were originally a separate station, and were added to serve the underground Glasgow Central Railway, authorised on 10 August 1888 and opened on 10 August 1896. The Glasgow Central Railway was taken over by the Caledonian Railway in 1890. Services ran from Maryhill Central and from the Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire Railway in the west through to Rutherglen and via Tollcross through to Carmyle, Newton, and other Caledonian Railway destinations to the east of Glasgow.

The 1901–1905 station rebuild

By 1900 the station was again found to be too small, passenger numbers per annum on the high-level station having increased by 5.156 million since the first extension was completed in 1890. Passenger usage per annum in 1899 was 16.841 million on the high-level station and 6.416 million on the low-level station, a total of 23.257 million. The station is on two levels: the High-Level station at the same level as Gordon Street, which bridges over Argyle Street, and the underground Low-Level station.

Between 1901 and 1905 the original station was rebuilt. The station was extended over the top of Argyle Street, and thirteen platforms were built. An additional eight-track bridge, the Caledonian Railway Bridge, was built over the Clyde, and the original bridge was raised by 30 inches (0.75 m). Bridge Street station was then closed.

Also during the 1901–1905 rebuild a series of sidings was created at the end of Platforms 11 and 12 on the bridge over the River Clyde. These were named West Bank Siding, Mid Bank Siding and East Bank Siding. A dock siding – No. 14 Dock was created at the south end of Platform 13.

Central Station has a spacious concourse containing shops, catering outlets, ticket offices and a travel centre. It is fronted by the Central Hotel on Gordon Street, designed by Robert Rowand Anderson. The station building also houses a long line of shops and bars down the Union Street side. The undercroft of the station is not open to the general public: it houses private car-parking and utility functions for both the station itself and the adjoining Central Hotel.

The station's famous architectural features are the large glass-walled bridge that takes the station building over Argyle Street, nicknamed as the "Hielanman's Umbrella" (Highlandman's Umbrella) by locals because it was used as a gathering place for visiting Highlanders; and the former ticket offices / platform and train-destination information building. This was a large oval building, with the booking office on the ground floor and the train information display for passengers on large printed cloth destination boards placed behind large windows on the first floor by a team of two men. Underneath the "Umbrella" is a bustling array of shops and bars, as well as the "Arches" nightclub, theatre, gallery and restaurant complex.

The Central Hotel

Central Station is fronted by the Central Hotel on Gordon Street. Adjoining onto the station concourse, it was one of Glasgow's most prestigious hotels in its heyday.

It was originally designed by Robert Rowand Anderson, in 'Queen Anne style'; he also furnished the public rooms. The hotel was completed in 1883, but was extended along with the station in 1901–1906. The hotel extension was designed by James Miller and it opened on 15 April 1907.

The world's first long-distance television pictures were transmitted to the Central Hotel in the station, on 24 May 1927 by John Logie Baird. The hotel was sold by British Rail in the 1980s, and passed through the hands of various private operators until its most recent owner, the Real Hotel Group, went into administration in February 2009, and the hotel subsequently closed amid concerns of asbestos contamination and structural deterioration.

In June 2009, a new company acquired the hotel building, and planned to refurbish and rebrand it as the Glasgow Grand Central Hotel. The refurbished hotel re-opened in September 2010.


The original 1889 signal box was replaced with an electro-pneumatic power-operated box based on the Westinghouse system. Work started in October 1907 and it opened on 5 April 1908. It was built directly over the River Clyde, sitting between the two river bridges, above the level of the tracks. Inside was a frame of 374 miniature levers, making it the longest power frame ever built in Great Britain.

Glasgow Central Signalling Centre, located in the "vee" of Bridge Street Junction, opened on 2 January 1961. It replaced signal boxes at Central Station, Bridge Street Junction, Eglinton Street Junction and Eglinton Street Station. When initially opened it was capable of handling 1,000 routes.

The new signalling centre was needed for three reasons:

  • The 1907 power signal box was worn out;
  • The original 1879 bridge over the River Clyde was coming to the end of its useful life, and it was more effective to use the newer (1904) bridge to handle all the traffic, with the lines signalled bi-directionally;
  • Electrification of the Cathcart Circle Lines, and subsequently the Gourock and Wemyss Bay services and the West Coast Main Line.
  • In addition to the removal of the east river bridge, the scissor crossovers through the station, the Cathcart Engine siding, East Bank Siding, Mid Bank Siding and No. 14 Dock were removed. The West Bank Siding was numbered as Platform 11a.

    Glasgow Central Signalling Centre closed on 27 December 2008, when its area of control was transferred to the new West of Scotland Signalling Centre (WSSC) at Cowlairs. The NX panel is to be preserved. The station is currently signalled by two Westinghouse Westlock Interlockings which are controlled via a GE MCS control system.

    Railway electrification

    Overhead power lines began to appear on the high-level platforms early 1960s under British Railways. Firstly came 6.25 kV AC overhead power lines from the Cathcart Circle Line electrification scheme, which started on 29 May 1962. During this period, the old 1879 bridge over the River Clyde was removed and the railway lines were rearranged.

    This was followed by the 25 kV AC overhead-power-lines electrification of the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway and the Inverclyde Line to Gourock and Wemyss Bay, completed in 1967; and the WCML northern electrification scheme, which started on the 6 May 1974. Part of the Cathcart Circle was upgraded to 25 kV AC supply in 1974, to provide a diversionary route; the whole of the Cathcart Circle route was later upgraded to that supply.

    Plans to electrify other routes, such as the Whifflet Line, as part of a scheme to improve rail services in Scotland were completed in November 2014.


    Services through the Low-Level station, initially generous, had been greatly reduced due to competition with the extensive and efficient tram system well before their withdrawal on 3 October 1964 under the "Beeching Axe". The trams themselves had been replaced by buses by 1962.


    In 1979, part of the low-level line was electrified and the Low-Level station was re-opened as the Argyle Line of the Glasgow suburban railway network. It consisted of a single island platform, numbered as Platforms 14 and 15 (later renumbered to 16 and 17 respectively when the project to re-signal and add two additional platforms to the higher level took place in 2008).

    Initially services were provided by Class 303 and Class 314 units. The latter were built specifically for this service. Following the withdrawal of the Class 303 units, the service was provided by Class 318 and Class 334 "Juniper" units.

    Class 320 units were intended to be used on the route, but due to the position of the original driver's monitors for checking doors, this proved impossible. Therefore, these units were restricted to the North Clyde Line. This changed in 2011 with a programme of works carried out to enable the Class 320 units to work through the station in passenger service. The class 320 and 318 units between them now provide the majority of Argyle Line services, with most 334s having moved to operate the Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link.

    Flooding of the Low-Level line

    Over the Christmas festive period of 1994, on 11 December, torrential rain caused the River Kelvin to burst its banks at the closed Kelvinbridge station, with the water making its way through the disused tunnels to Exhibition Centre and the Low-Level station, which was completely submerged by the resultant flash flood. It was closed for many months while repairs were made.

    In August 2002, torrential rain flooded out the low-level stations from Dalmarnock through to Exhibition Centre for a number of weeks. Most services were routed to the high-level platforms, or to Queen Street station. The 2002 Glasgow floods had a number of other effects, causing a cryptospiridium outbreak in Glasgow's water supply.

    1980s redevelopment

    The high-level station's facilities were substantially redeveloped in the mid-1980s. The old ticket office / train information building was replaced in 1985 by an all-new Travel Centre adjacent to the Gordon Street entrance. By 1986 a large electro-mechanical destination board at the end of the platforms, with a smaller repeater board at the western side of the concourse, had replaced the former manually operated train-information boards. The old booking office / train information building was retained and redeveloped into shops, eateries and an upstairs bar/restaurant, and the station was re-floored in marble.

    During this redevelopment the manned ticket barriers at Platforms 1 to 8 were removed and the yellow ticket automatic barriers were removed from Platforms 9 to 13 (now 15).

    1998–2005 refurbishment

    In 1998, a five-year renovation programme was initiated by Railtrack, which saw the trainshed completely re-roofed and internally refurbished by Bovis Lend Lease – which also included the restoration of Hielanman's Umbrella. The 1980s vintage mechanical pixel-style destination boards were later replaced around 2005 with an LED-style destination board. The final improvement, the upgrading of the upstairs restaurant area, was completed in 2005.

    2009/10 expansion

    To accommodate the cancelled Glasgow Airport Rail Link plans, the platforms were renumbered. Platform 11a (the previous West Bank Siding, on the bridge over the Clyde) was renumbered 12, whilst 12 & 13 were renumbered 14 & 15 respectively. In September 2009 the former platform-level car park and passenger drop-off area was taken out of use and the platform over the Clyde (recently renumbered 12) was removed. Two new platforms were created between 11 and 14, being brought into use in May 2010. There are no plans to replace indoor parking or passenger drop-off within Central station. The existing multi-storey parking facility on Oswald Street and on-street parking surrounding Central station remain, with passenger drop-off having moved to surrounding streets. During Cyclone Bodil in December 2013, the glass roof of the station was broken by flying debris.


    Automatic ticket barriers were installed at Glasgow Central and three other city-centre stations from 2011 as part of a crackdown on fare-dodging to increase ticket revenue. This follows barriers being erected at Queen Street Station in 2004, ending ScotRail's "open stations" policy under which staffed and previous yellow ticket automatic barriers had been scrapped during the 1980s to encourage more passengers; tickets were checked on trains instead. ScotRail finalised negotiations with Network Rail over the project in June 2010, with the project completed on February 2012, covering High Level Platforms 3 to 15 and Low Level Platforms 16 and 17. Platforms 1 and 2 were left without barriers, as they are mostly used by long distance express services with a high proportion of passengers carrying heavy luggage.

    Station Tours

    Following the success of the doors open day event in summer 2013, tours of the station are now being run several times a week as of November 2014. These 90-minute tours cover the roof, plus the catacombs, vaults, and a very limited view from above of disused platforms below the station.

    Station ticket facilities

    There are three ticket halls. Two are operated by ScotRail (main concourse and Argyle Street entrance) and the third is a travel centre run by Virgin Trains at the Gordon Street entrance. Virgin Trains also operate a dedicated customer lounge next to Platform 1 and a First Class lounge.


    As of 2016, Glasgow Central is served by six train-operating companies.


    Operates a two-hourly service on the CrossCountry route using the East Coast Main Line to Birmingham New Street via Leeds and onwards to destinations such as Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter St Davids, Plymouth & Penzance as an extension to its services from Edinburgh Waverley.

    Abellio ScotRail

    Operates services to Scottish destinations including Ayr (for a bus connection to the Stena Line ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast), Troon, Kilmarnock, East Kilbride, Gourock, Neilston, Stranraer, Largs and Lanark.

    There are also services to Carlisle (via Kilmarnock) and Newcastle in England. During the closure of Glasgow Queen Street High Level Station, services to Inverness/Aberdeen have been diverted to Glasgow Central.

    TransPennine Express

    Operates a two-hourly service to Manchester Airport via Manchester Piccadilly, Preston and the West Coast Main Line.

    Virgin Trains

    Operates an hourly service to London Euston directly, and a two-hourly service to London Euston via Birmingham New Street, using Super Voyagers and Pendolinos via the West Coast Main Line. They also operate services to/from Birmingham New Street and Crewe.

    Virgin Trains East Coast

    Operates one train per day (except Sundays) to London King's Cross via Edinburgh Waverley, Newcastle Central and York

    Caledonian Sleeper

    Operates one sleeper service per night, Sunday to Friday, to London Euston.

    A taxi rank is to the north of the station, while buses operate from the adjacent streets. St Enoch and Buchanan Street Subway stations are within a few minutes' walk.

    SPT operates a bus service to Glasgow Queen Street and Buchanan bus station; this bus is numbered 398.


    Glasgow Central station Wikipedia

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