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A82/Great Western Road

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From:  Glasgow (NS582662)
To:  Alexandria (NS380814)
Via:  Dumbarton
Distance:  17.6 miles (28.3 km)
Meets:  M8, A739, A814, A898, A811
Former Number(s):  B810, A876
Old route now:  A814
Highway Authorities

Transport Scotland



Route outline (key)
Arrownorth.jpg Next Loch Lomond
A82 Glasgow - Erskine Bridge
A82 Erskine Bridge - Alexandria
Previous Arroweast.jpg Glasgow

Glasgow | North

Route History

Historic Routes

Further north, after passing Loch Lomond, the predecessors of the modern A82 can be easy to trace in the surrounding Landscape. The Military Roads dating from the early-mid 18th Century, and the replacement road built by Thomas Telford in the early years of the 19th century are either still in use, or left to slowly sink into the land. However, at the roads start, in the heart of Glasgow city centre, there is no hope of finding such evidence with any ease. The Military Road network is known to have extended to Dumbarton Castle, while Telford's road is described as starting in Glasgow itself, but 200 years of further development have destroyed all trace on the surface.

As a result, for this section of the road only, we shall have to start in 1922 when the A82 number was first allocated, to a drastically different route to the one we travel today.

1922 Route

In 1922, the Great Western Road barely extended beyond Anniesland Cross, so the original route of the A82 started on the A8 and A74 at Glasgow Cross on the north side of Glasgow Bridge and headed west along Argyle Street out of the city centre, to pick up the route of today's A814. With the odd exception for realignment when the Clydeside Expressway was built, the original route of the A82 followed the present route of the A814 all the way west to Dumbarton.

At the time, Great Western Road itself was given the B810 number, later to be renumbered as the A876 as it was extended westwards to Dumbarton. In Dumbarton town, it seems to have originally followed the route of the modern A812 and B857 to Balloch.

1930 - the Anniesland to Bowling Boulevard

Proposals for an extension of the existing Great Western Road from Anniesland Cross to Duntocher had taken place before the First World War and were driven by Glasgow Corporation. The 4.5 mile road was to be 140 feet wide (to incorporate carriageway, footpaths, verges) and was estimated to cost £258,000.

In January 1923, the Corporation put it forward as one of their Unemployment Relief Road Schemes. The cost was then put at £500,000. Dunbartonshire County Council was prepared to contribute £50,000 if the boulevard was extended to the west end of Bowling, and Clydebank Town Council were prepared to contribute £30,000 if the boulevard was diverted at a point they specified. The Corporation recommended not to accept these offers but to proceed with the Duntocher scheme so long as a grant of not less than 50% was offered by the Ministry of Transport, and subject to the consent of Dunbartonshire County Council. A motion was carried that the work should be done by contract or direct labour, whichever was found to be economical or efficient.

The Ministry intimated in June 1923 that they were prepared to make a grant of 50% to the scheme. There was a question about progress in the House of Commons on 10 July 1923. Colonel Ashley replied that a new road from Glasgow to Duntocher would be built by Glasgow Corporation and a new road from Duntocher to Bowling by Dunbartonshire County Council. Tenders had been invited for the two projects and were under consideration. Thus Dunbartonshire had taken responsibility for their section of the road and the line of the present Great Western Road had been set.

Anniesland to Duntocher initial works

Two dozen tenders were received for this section and they were considered during July. Work was expected to last for 18 months, which turned out to be very hopeful. The lowest tender was accepted on 22 August 1923, this being £241,740 from Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons. They offered to reduce it by £9,000 if mechanical appliances were allowed to be used.

There was a fatal accident on 23 April 1924 when part of the 15 feet high embankment near the Forth and Clyde Canal collapsed. An unofficial strike began on 27 July 1924 when 400 men ceased work. The claim for higher wages went to arbitration. It stemmed from there being no agreed rates of pay for public works in Scotland. The workers wanted a similar pay classification as had been agreed in England. The employer contended that these were uneconomic, had been fixed in a boom period, and they had to take on workers with no experience of road building. On 16 September 1924 the Industrial Court awarded a pay increase from 11 3/4d to 1s 1d per hour.

In April 1925 the Surveyor laid out his plans for the 80 foot bridge over the Forth and Clyde Canal. As with many Unemployment Relief Road Schemes the road works were put in place quickly to give the jobs, but bridges on route were left to a later stage. This meant delays to the opening of the through route.

Duntocher to Bowling

The 3.5 mile Dunbartonshire County section from Duntocher to Bowling was opened in December 1925 by Lieut-Colonel Wilfred Ashley, Minister of Transport. It was 70 feet wide with a 40 foot carriageway and 10 foot footpath. The contractor was Messrs. Sharks & McEwan with a tender price £92,336.

Anniesland to Duntocher completion

Another major bridge was started in January 1926. This was over the London and North-Eastern railway at Drumchapel and involved 240 tons of steelwork. It was to be 141 feet wide and was being built by the Motherwell Bridge and Engineering Co. Ltd.

Colonel Ashley was again asked questions about the road on 28 April 1927, this time by Lieutenant-Colonel Thom, M,P, for Dunbartonshire. Firstly, about the cost spent on the road to date, which was £375,000. Thom then asked if the Minister was aware that, despite all this expenditure of public sums of money, the road was not available to the public as a through highway because of a failure of the local authorities and the Canal Company to agree as to a bridge that would connect the two parts of the road. Colonel Ashley replied that he thought it deplorable but there was nothing he could do to make the authorities and Canal Company come to an agreement. He did add that it amounted to a delay and there would eventually be an agreement. It would be some delay though.

It was stated that two-thirds of the road was complete but on 13 May 1927 Colonel Ashley wrote to Thom to say that the whole of the road was open to traffic with the exception of 1200 yards in the vicinity of the awaited canal bridge. Thus, in May 1927, the Great Western Road was more or less complete, providing a new, wide highway from central Glasgow out to Dumbarton… apart from the missing bridge.

The Cloberhill Canal Bridge finale

Negotiations had begun in October 1923 between Glasgow Corporation and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, who were responsible for the Forth and Clyde Canal. A scheme had been agreed by both parties in April 1924. The preparation of details was proceeded with but it took from January 1925 to October 1925 for Glasgow Corporation and Dunbarton shire County Council to agree these. The City Engineer had prepared details, specification and forms of tender by Spring 1926 when there was a coal strike. The matter was deferred until the Autumn when, to the City Engineer's surprise, there was an objection from the Railway Company. The documentation then had to be revised and this was still ongoing in May 1927 when the road, apart from the bridge section, had opened.

Agreement by all parties was obtained in December 1927 but it took until May 1928 for work to start. The opening came on 16 September 1930 to complete the last link of the Anniesland to Bowling Boulevard which was named Great Western Road. Needless to say there was a large assembly from Glasgow Corporation at the opening ceremony, with Lord Provost Kelly declaring the bridge open. It was built by Sir William Arrol & Co. and Sir John Hunter, on behalf of the company, touted for business by saying they could build a similar bridge at Finnieston. The cost to the Corporation was £85,000.

Cloberhill Opening Bridge was a massive structure, and first of its kind in Scotland. The carriageway was 40 feet wide with two 15 foot pavements. Clearance from the canal was 10 feet without the bridge raised. Signals would stop the traffic when the bridge was to be raised. There were counterweights of 300 tons and two 20 b.h.p. motors.

The numbering

When it was opened it was numbered as the A876, with a spur to the A82 at Old Kilpatrick given the A878 number. These numbers had not been allocated back in 1922, and were being used up in sequence at various places around Zone 8. Compared to the narrow urban route that the original A82 followed, the new A876 must have been a fast, empty highway used primarily by Motorised vehicles once past Anniesland Cross, so it is little wonder that it became the new route of the A82 out of Glasgow in 1935.

This saw the A876 number temporarily retired for future use elsewhere, and the A814 extended from its Arrochar - Dumbarton route all the way into Glasgow City Centre, along the route that it still takes (give or take the odd bit of dualling!). The A878 number, however, still applies to the short spur at Old Kilpatrick, its sliproads mingling with those for the A898, but not allowing any traffic flow between the two routes.

Modern Route

It would be easy to say that nothing has changed since the A82 was rerouted along the Great Western Road in 1935. However, as is true with any major route in a city, the changes are substantial.

Approaching Anniesland Cross

To start with, as we have seen above, the A82 once ran into the heart of the city. Today, it starts on the M8 at the nightmarish Junction 17/18, part of the Charing Cross Interchanges. As such, the first bit of the current route is new, having been built in the 1970s along with the motorway. Soon, however, we are deposited at the Start of the Great Western Road, and head north west along a route that fluctuates between S2 and S4, with the inside lanes blocked by parking and bus stops. The River Kelvin is crossed by the Great Western Bridge (see below), and then after about two miles we reach the confused junction with the A739 at Anniesland Cross. This gives the first opportunity to cross the River since we left the Motorway, by heading south through the Clyde Tunnel.

The road then becomes D3, with intermittent bus stops, but at least this allows two lanes of moving traffic in each direction through Drumchapel (with a lane drop through the Duntreath GSJ) and onto the B8055, Drumry Road Roundabout at Clydebank. Westbound traffic has a lane drop just before the roundabout, while eastbound leaves the roundabout with three lanes. Curiously, however, the overall width of the roadway remains at just over 30 m, with a central reservation of a little over 11 m. This would suggest that the eastern D3 section has been created by narrowing the traffic lanes, rather than widening the road, so the D2 section could theoretically also become D3!

Clydebank in 1933, clearly showing the A82 and A876 extending west of Old Kilpatrick

The next junction is the Kilbowie Roundabout with the A8014 and B814. Just under a mile later, the A810 meets the eastbound traffic; westbound traffic can access the road via the A8014. There is then a GSJ with Mountblow Road before the complex Old Kilpatrick Interchange, where the A898 Erskine Bridge road crosses the Clyde, and the A878 provides limited access to the A814. Beyond the interchange, the character of the A82 changes. Gone is the wide, grassy central reservation, replaced with a kerbed central barrier. The speed limit drops to 40 and the road becomes narrower once more. If it wasn't for the existence of the A878 and the knowledge that the A814 was extended into Glasgow City Centre in 1935, it could be believed that this section of road was later. In addition, the 1933 Bartholomews map (left) shows both routes running in parallel. Perhaps the dualling is later, the road having been built as a standard two-way road.

As we pass through Bowling, the A82 gets much closer to the Clyde, with the A814 running parallel on the left for a time, before finally running out of land and joining the A82 for a brief multiplex through Milton. In 1935, the route beyond the A814 fork would have been the edge of Dumbarton, if not beyond, but it now slices through the housing estates on the towns northern side. However, the narrow section of the D2 is nearly over, with the roundabout at Barloan Toll marking the end of the original Great Western Road, and the start of the Alexandria Bypass, built in the 1970s.


After the long haul out of Glasgow, we finally reach Alexandria. However, the modern bypass was built in the 1970s and before that the routing of the A82, A811, A812 and A813 seems to have changed several times. Here's an attempt at describing the changes:


In 1922, the A82 entered Dumbarton on the current A814, before turning north on the A812 and B857 to Balloch. The A811 is more confusing; it started on the A82 to the east of Dumbarton and ran along the route of the current A82 Dumbarton bypass before following the current A813 north to join its modern route.

The A812 was a short link across Bonhill Bridge between the A811 and A82, while the A813 served a similar purpose further north, using Balloch Road to the north of the modern A811.


The changes in 1935 were sparked by the re-routing of the A82, with the construction of the Dumbarton Bypass. The A82 therefore picked up the former A811, modern A813 route north along Stirling Road, before crossing the River Leven on the former A812, Bonhill Bridge to resume its original route. The A812 number was then reused for the ex-A82 section between Dumbarton and Bonhill (the A814 extended through Dumbarton and on to Glasgow). This slightly foreshortened the A811 and left the A813 where it was.


The southern section of the Alexandria Bypass was opened in 1972/3, and the A82 number immediately transferred to the new dual carriageway. However, with the western section still under construction, the A82 then had to return to its old route through Renton, which had been the A812, and is now the B857. This saw the A812 truncated to its current stubby length. When the western section of the bypass opened a few years later, the A82 was obviously routed along it, with its former route downgraded to the B857. With the new roundabout at Balloch, and further upgrades to the north, the A811 was also rerouted to meet the Balloch Roundabout, and so take through traffic away from Jamestown and Bonhill. The two routes essentially swapped numbers, with the old A811 becoming the current A813.


In no particular order, there have been several minor realignments to this road network (irrespective of which number they carried!) in the last fifty years.

  • The A814 now passes to the north of Dumbarton Town Centre.
  • The A811 follows a new route, to the south of the old Balloch Road.
  • The B857 appears to have been moved to the east in Alexandria.
  • The A813 has also been moved eastwards in Bonhill, and has been moved westwards at the northern end.


Great Western Bridge

The Great Western Bridge

The Great Western Bridge was opened on 29th September 1891, to carry the Great Western Road across the River Kelvin. It still does that job today. The river is crossed with two green-painted metal spans, separated by a stone abutment, dressed with a pseudo-classical column on the outer face. At the western end, a minor arch carries the road across a riverside walkway.

Crossing the Erskine Bridge

Erskine Bridge

Main Article: Erskine Bridge

Not strictly on the A82, but the Erskine Bridge (right) on the A898 is an integral part of the route nevertheless, bringing traffic across the Clyde from the M8, and so marking the point where the A82 becomes primary for the rest of its journey north.

Dumbarton Bridge

The old bridge at Dumbarton

Main Article: Dumbarton Bridge

Part of the A82 route from 1922-1935, the old bridge at Dumbarton has since been replaced on the A814 route, with the A82 itself now using a new bridge to the north of the town.

Bonhill Bridge

Bonhill's new bridge

The old bridge at Bonhill was replaced with this bow-string structure in 1987. The first bridge here was built in 1836, to replace a ferry, and was a small suspension bridge. It was locally known as the 'Bawbee Bridge', with Bawbee being local dialect for Halfpenny - the toll charged. It was replaced in 1898 by a steel arch girder bridge, but this was still narrow and it appears to have been a reluctant decision to re-route the A82 across it in 1935. Ironically, the modern bridge is plenty wide enough!

Balloch Bridge

Balloch Bridge

Main Article: Balloch Bridge

Again, not ever part of the A82 route, but an integral part of the transport network in and around Alexandria.

Glasgow | North

A82/Great Western Road
Related Pictures
View gallery (36)
A82 - sign in Glasgow - Coppermine - 3027.jpgA876-1933.JPGB857-renton.jpgBonhill-br2.jpgOld-partick-br.jpg
Features of the A82 Corridor
Route HistoryA82Great Western Road • Loch Lomond • Glen Falloch • Srathfillan • Rannoch Moor • Glencoe • Ballachulish - Fort William • Fort William - Fort Augustus • Loch Ness
Associated Routes: A805 • A829 • A876 • A8005 • B810 • B848 • B863 • B8040
CrossingsErskine Bridge • Dumbarton Bridge • Balloch Bridge • Luss Bridge • White Bridge • Ba Bridge • Kingshouse Bridge • The Study • Achnambeithach Bridge • Ballachulish Bridge • Righ Bridge • Corran Ferry • Kiachnish Bridge • Nevis Bridge • Lochybridge • Caledonian Canal Swing Bridges • Invergarry Bridge • Bridge of Oich • Fort Augustus Bridge • Invermoriston Bridge
JunctionsCharing Cross • Anniesland Cross • Kilbowie Roundabout • Old Kilpatrick • Dunglas Roundabout • Dumbarton Fork • Barloan Toll • Lomondgate Roundabout • Renton Junction • Stoneymollan Roundabout • Arden • Tarbet • Crianlarich • Tyndrum • Bridge of Orchy • Glencoe Crossroads • Ballachulish Roundabout • North Ballachulish • Corran Ferry • West End Roundabout • An Aird • Nevis Bridge • Lochybridge • Spean Bridge • Commando Memorial • Invergarry Bridge • Fort Augustus • Invermoriston • Drumnadrochit • Tomnahurich Roundabout • Telford Street Roundabout • Harbour Road Roundabout • Longman Roundabout
DestinationsGlasgow • Clydebank • Erskine Bridge • Dumbarton • Tarbet • Crianlarich • Tyndrum • Fort William • Lochybridge • Spean Bridge • Inverness

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