THE rail link to Glasgow Airport was scrapped because it would have led to many other commuter services being cancelled, the Transport Secretary has said.

Michael Matheson came under criticism from Labour and Conservative MSPs at Holyrood as he revealed the reasons behind the decision to axe the plan for a direct link from Central to the airport.

Last week the Evening Times revealed the direct train/tram link was being scrapped and instead officials would develop plans for a Personal Rapid Transit system where pods take people from the terminal to Paisley Gilmour Street, station where they can then join the main rail network.

He said the project team raised issues about “capacity constraint”.

Read more: Ex council leader says scrapping Glasgow Airport rail link is "betrayal for the city"

However, the minister said that improvements to the rail network, options for reducing congestion on the M8 and road access to the airport would be investigated in the next strategic transport review.

Options like bus prioritisation on the M8 and other traffic management issues would be considered.

He said that Crossrail, linking the rail networks to the north and south of Glasgow, while not resolving the capacity issues around an airport rail link, could also be looked at again.

He said: “Crossrail was rejected on cost benefit analysis. It is an issue that can be re-visited. We can look at a range of different options.”

Mr Matheson told MSPs that a direct link between the airport and Glasgow Central Station would see 15 peak time commuter services from Ayrshire, Inverclyde and East Kilbride into Glasgow having to be scrapped.

He said: “15 services would need to be removed to allow four services from the airport. That’s 5000 seats.”

Read more: Glasgow Airport rail link to be ditched for rapid shuttle pod to Paisley

He told the Scottish Parliament that plans to increase capacity at Central Station and to improve commuter services from outside the city into Glasgow would be put at risk if the rail link was developed.

Central Station he said would reach 60m passengers a year by 2040.

He said: “Performance at Glasgow Central is at risk if these demands are not managed.

The Transport secretary said the issue of the impact on other services should have been addressed earlier when the rail link was first proposed as a City Deal project.

He also said he would have liked for the alternative of a PRT to have been progressed as an option earlier too.

Opposition MSPs were angry at the cancellation of a direct rail link to the airport for the second time and were critical of the SNP leadership at Government and council levels during a heated debate at Holyrood.

The Tories asked if the pods to Paisley would have any effect on congestion on the M8.

Adam Tomkins said: “Anyone who cares about the growth of Glasgow can see Glasgow needs a direct link to the airport.

“This is a government that couldn’t care less and Glasgow has been betrayed.”

Johann Lamont, Glasgow Labour MSP suggested she did not believe the analysis of the officials that led to the project being scrapped.

She said: “Why does he imagine all those communities and businesses are all wrong and Transport Scotland, who only ever see barriers, are right?”

SNP MSPs backed Mr Matheson and the decision to scrap the project, which would have cost around £140m.

James Dornan, Cathcart MSP said it was a “waste of tax payers’ money” that could have “hindered“ people coming into Glasgow for work. .

Kenny Gibson, North Ayrshire MSP said the project was a “white elephant” and a “pet project of Labour and Tory MSPs.”

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