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A8/Renfrew - Gourock

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Location Map ( geo)
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From:  Renfrew (NS505675)
To:  Gourock (NS241778)
Distance:  16.7 miles (26.9 km)
Highway Authorities

Renfrewshire • Inverclyde • Transport Scotland



The western section of the A8 runs from the centre of Renfrew west along the Clyde Coast to Greenock, formerly extending to Gourock as well. Despite the often constricted space through which it runs, it has seen a lot of changes over the years, culminating with the opening of the M8 in the 1970s, and the construction of a dual carriageway from the end of the Motorway in to Greenock.

The Old Route

Inchinnan Bascule Bridge

The A8 still heads west out of Renfrew along Inchinnan Road, just as the old main road west to Greenock has done for centuries. The Black and White Cart Waters are crossed on the bridges at Inchinnan, just beyond which the layby on the right had side shows where an old bend has been eased. Less than half a mile later, the A8 forks left, the road ahead being the Old Greenock Road, which appears to have been replaced in the Victorian era by the current route. The road then runs past the famous Art Deco India of Inchinnan building, before meeting the A726 at Red Smiddy Roundabout. The motorway is then crossed at the recently reinstated Southbar Interchange before the A8 enters Bishopton.

So far, apart from a handful of roundabouts and a couple of minor realignments, the A8 sticks closely to the route originally classified in 1922, and the same holds true as it passes through Bishopton, crossing the Old Greenock Road, and dropping down towards the Clyde coast. An old kink has been straightened near Ingliston, before the A8 passes under the railway line. The road used to turn sharp left immediately after the bridge, which itself is a much wider replacement for what would originally have been a single arch crossing. The old road can still be walked, signed as part of the Clyde Coastal Path, and is an eerie remnant of the old road, buried deep between dense vegetation and the railway embankment, tufts of grass growing out of the old cats eye holes.

The path rejoins the A8, which although dualled still follows the old line at first. After no more than half a mile, however, the path once more starts to deviate away from the modern road, and while inconclusive, a series of diagonal joints in the tarred surface probably show the old road surface. The path becomes very muddy before emerging on the B789 next to the railway line, the B road having been extended ahead along the old A8 route. The B789 then runs through Langbank along the old main road, the extra width put to good use to provide parking bays on either side of the road, also helping as traffic calming.

The stub of the old A8 at Langbank

At the western end of Langbank, the old road has been cut down in width to allow the connection to the new dual carriageway, but survives in part to serve the properties at the far end of the village. Again, the Coastal Path continues ahead, emerging on the side of the dual carriageway next to two wide modern railway bridges carrying the tracks over the road. The original bridge lies a little further west, still visible but now lying within private property. This then was another sharp double bend in the road as it passed under the railway.

While the A8 now enjoys a long sweeping bend, the old road hugged the edge of the railway embankment, with the modern line resuming the old route roughly at the council boundary. A little further on, the large layby on the westbound carriageway is a kink in the old road, before it rejoined the embankment. The modern dual carriageway again swings away from the railway as it approaches the Woodhall Roundabout, but the old road survives as a gated compound within the trees on the right. The modern junction then eradicates the old road, but it can be traced in a straight line onto Glasgow Road in Woodhall.

Looking east along the old road in Woodhall

The strange pieces of road lying alongside Glasgow Road as it runs through Woodhall were once service roads for the long-demolished houses that stood alongside. Otherwise Glasgow Road is largely unchanged as it continues west, past the cemetery towards Port Glasgow. However, where Glasgow Road becomes dualled and passes behind the tenements, the original line of the A8 forks left and follows the curving Robert Street around the fronts of the flats. This leads into a small park, just short of the large roundabout which is contemporary with the dual carriageway. The old A8 then passes under Lidl's car park, passing under a now bricked up railway bridge immediately to the west of the current A761 span.

The A8 always seems to have curved around the centre of Port Glasgow, originally following Bay Street, Fore Street, Scarlow Street and Shore Street, beyond which the old road has been substantially changed with the recent development of the retail park. The general line survives as the service road at the rear of the shops, before passing under the new A8 as Ardgowan Street, and serving the industrial estate beyond. The junction with the new dual carriageway then obliterates the old road, as the A8 resumes its historic route. Despite the insertion of a couple of roundabouts, and the substantial changes to the surrounding urban landscape, the A8 then remains on its original line until it reaches Greenock town centre.

Greenock's Police Station appears to have been built on a kink of the old road, and most of Dalrymple Street seems to be on a slightly different line to the old route. The current A8 then comes to an end at the Bullring Roundabout. However, in the past it continued west along what is now the A770 into Gourock. As this is no longer an important route, however, there are very few changes to be noted. A couple of junctions have been improved, a bend reprofiled on Cardwell Road, and then the A8 came to an end at the entrance to Gourock Station and Pier, a busy departure point for steamers.

1970s Improvements

As can be gathered from the description above, much of the A8 remains unchanged from Renfrew to the end of the M8 near Langbank. However, the addition, removal and re-insertion of Southbar Interchange are worth noting. Also, west of Bishopton the old kink near Ingliston survived for many years as part of the side road that connects the A8 with the Old Greenock Road here. It is only relatively recently that the straight junction was created, and the old A8 sections finally returned to nature.

New and old A8 approaching Woodhall Roundabout

Old maps show that the original line of the A8 from the end of the motorway through to Greenock remained unchanged in 1971. However, the motorway reached J31 late in 1975, and the dualling of the A8 continued westwards rapidly thereafter. By 1976 the dual carriageway had been extended as far as Woodhall, although the roundabout was not built at this stage. Indeed, the roundabout at Langbank was also a later, in this case much later, addition. The Woodhall and Kelburn bypass to reach Port Glasgow appears to have opened in 1977.

However, here we have a curiosity. The dualled section of Glasgow Road, bypassing Robert Street in Port Glasgow, is not shown on maps from 1970/1, but is shown as complete, along with the dual carriageway around Port Glasgow Town Centre on maps from a few years later, which do not show the Woodhall bypass section. This suggests that the original plan was perhaps to dual all of the old A8 through Woodhall, before the current line was chosen. The rest of the A8 through to Greenock appears to be largely on-line widening, although old maps suggest that the road was always a wide route, with traffic islands in the centre in places, and was perhaps an S4 before being reconfigured as a proper dual carriageway.

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