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”There’s Partick Cross and Cessnock, Hillhead and Merkland Street, St George’s Cross and Govan Cross where all the people meet; West Street, Shields Road– The train goes round and round;You’ve never lived unless you’ve been on the Glasgow Underground”
(The Glasgow Underground song written by Cliff Hanley)
Underneath the hustle and bustle of Glasgow, the iconic subway has been going round for an incredible 122 years, making it the third oldest underground metro system in the world.
The world was different in 1896 and in some ways so was the subway. Covering 6.5 miles (10.5 km) it began as a cable railway with wooden carriages that continued their service for over 70 years. It was the first of its kind advertising proudly ‘no smoke, no steam, perfect ventilation. Round the city in half an hour’.
By 1935, the line had been electrified but it remained unchanged otherwise. None of the 15 bare stations had escalators, breakdowns were frequent and repairs were harder to do as the tools were not longer fabricated. This led to major delays and commuters complained about the distinctive earthy odour of the stations.
In the 1970’s the Underground (as it was then known) fell out of fashion amongst the Weegies and sadly in 1977 cracks were found on the roof of Govan Cross Station and the Underground was closed, not reopening until 1980. During these years, the Underground changed its face forever, renovating stations (and closing Merkland street), tunnels and even its ticketing system.In partnership with the Glasgow School of Art, it gained a new look, adopted orange as its new colour and big ‘U’ signs were installed at the stations entrances.
The 90’s brought further updates on colour and gave the stations an individual look. By 2003, it had returned to its infant name: Glasgow Subway.Over the last couple of years, modernisation has continued in its stations, making them more accessible and up to date.
According to the most recent stats, this was noticed by travellers that have given the subway a ‘seal of approval’ with a very respectable 97% in overall satisfaction from the service.
But still, the ‘clockwork orange’ (as it is called by foreigners and never by Glaswegians) doesn’t exist without its controversies.Throughout its run, it has never once been extended. According to 6 historical reports revealed earlier this year by Glasgow Live, if all the proposals had been successful, the underground system would now count with a whopping 50 stations in places like Springburn, Dalmarnock and Duke Street.
And yet, the subway keeps going. Early this summer, a new driverless fleet was announced for 2020. With 12.7 million journeys expected every year, it continues to look at a bright orange future.