The Cathcart Circle Lines
form a suburban railway route
(Central) to Cathcart
via a circular line, with branches to Newton
. All of the routes serve Glasgow's southern suburbs, i.e. on the south bank of the River Clyde
. The routes are part of the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
The Cathcart Circle Lines
are formed of lines built by the Cathcart District Railway
(Cathcart Circle) and the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway
(Newton and Neilston lines). The first part of the railway, inaugurated in 1880, was the Glasgow to Mount Florida
. The Newton and Neilston branches were originally built to provide a through route from the Lanarkshire
coalfields to ports such as Ardrossan
on the Ayrshire
coast. There is still a junction with other lines at Newton, but the track beyond Neilston has been lifted.
The railways originally carried significant amounts of freight, but commuter trains are the only regular users now. Football special services are sometimes run to Mount Florida and King's Park stations for major matches at Hampden Park.
When the lines were originally built, much of the land around them was open countryside. The existence of a commuter railway was a major factor in the development of Glasgow's southern suburbs.
On weekdays the services have provided a vital transport link for School pupils and College students at nearby schools and higher education establishments, contributing to passenger numbers on top of the commuter traffic.
The route was electrified in 1962 to the standard 25 kV AC, however limited clearances in the cuttings between Pollokshields East and Mount Florida meant that that section was electrified at 6.25kV. The Class 303 units - which had dual voltage capability - replaced steam trains and early diesel units.
The Cathcart Circle Lines are comprised of the following lines:
Built by the Cathcart District Railway
. "Outer Circle" services run in a clockwise direction, while "Inner Circle" services run in an anti-clockwise direction.
Newton Branch Line
Built by the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway
. Diverges from the Cathcart Circle Line at either Mount Florida
(clockwise) or Langside
(anti-clockwise). The link from the Langside direction was put in place during electrification.
Neilston Branch Line
Also built by the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway
. Diverges from the Cathcart Circle Line at Cathcart
Following Electrification in 1962
Passenger services were operated by Class 303
units with services around the west side of the Cathcart circle onto the L&AR lines eastbound, terminating at Kirkhill
, whilst east side services running through to Newton, with many being extended through to Motherwell
via the Clydesdale Junction Railway
route. Following electrification of the Inverclyde Line
in 1967 Class 311
units were also used.
During this period the basic service pattern was on a 30 minute frequency (two per hour) was Glasgow Central to Neilston (via Mount Florida); Glasgow Central to Motherwell (via Mount Florida); Glasgow Central to Kirkhill (via Maxwell Park); and Cathcart Circle (Inner and Outer).
West Coast Main Line electrification 1974
Electrification of the West Coast Main Line
which included the Hamilton Circle lines resulting in east side services being terminated at Newton. Peak time services from east and west sides operated to Motherwell via Blantyre and Hamilton.
Argyle Line opening in 1979
Opening of the Argyle Line
brought more changes, with the major change being the extension of west side services from Kirkhill to Newton.
Until the late 1980s, there were four trains an hour on the Newton branch (2 via Maxwell Park and 2 via Queen's Park) and two trains an hour in each direction around the Cathcart Circle, in addition to the services on the Neilston branch.
Passenger services are operated by First ScotRail
, with most services using Class 314 electric multiple units
although Class 318s
& Class 334s (Juniper units)
make occasional appearances on the line.
The basic service (Monday to Sunday) is every thirty minutes between Glasgow Central and Neilston (via Mount Florida); and every hour between Glasgow Central and Newton (via Mount Florida); Glasgow Central and Newton (via Maxwell Park); and Cathcart Circle (Inner and Outer). However the Inner and Outer Circle trains do not run on Sundays
This frequency combined creates a thirty minute service on the west side of the circle, Neilston and Newton branches; three trains per hour at Cathcart; and four trains per hour to stations between Glasgow Central and Mount Florida. Although frequent these service levels are less than those of the 1960s.
At peak times the above services combine to have trains running approximately every 5-10 minutes between Glasgow Central and Cathcart where line capacity permits. Commuter levels on this line are quite high and therefore a high density service is required at such busy periods.
There are currently plans to retire the Class 314s
by 2010 and move the Class 320s
currently used on the North Clyde Line
to the South Bank of the Clyde. All units are maintained at Shields Road depot, Glasgow.
There have also been proposals mooted at various times to convert the line to light rail, however never at any time have such proposals been beyond the initial suggestion stage.