NOT for the first time, Glasgow’s planned rail link to its airport has become a political football. For those wanting to score cheap points, this is a great opportunity. But for those who care about this city’s connectivity and global reputation, that is not good enough.

After my administration took power in May 2017, work continued with the plans we inherited to insert trams into the existing rail services between Paisley Gilmour Street and Glasgow Central. We have stopped this work after it became abundantly clear that it didn’t just face a few hurdles; it was fundamentally flawed.

Several audits and analyses of this proposal, including an independent expert report commissioned in 2016, reached similar conclusions. Inserting a tram service into the heavy rail network raises serious safety concerns, risks going significantly over budget, and could have a devastating daily impact on tens of thousands of rail commuters.

One fundamental problem is that the railway lines between Glasgow Central and Paisley are already under pressure. Analysis by Transport Scotland found that in the busy peak period only three trams would get in and out of Central Station without disrupting other services. Dozens of services from Ayrshire and Renfrewshire would face cancellation.

And it gets worse. Replacing busy seven-car trains with two-car trams would create a dangerous log-jam as regular passengers try to squeeze into the far smaller trams together with tourists and their bags. That is not the experience of Glasgow we want our visitors to have.

Casual observers of the project might be forgiven for nodding off if I mention train safety certification by the Office of Rail and Road, but this matters. If the ORR required the same signalling arrangement as operates on Newcastle’s Metro system (the nearest equivalent service), the capacity of the Glasgow-Paisley rail line would be halved. More cancelled services.

Connecting our city centre to the airport by rail is important for our reputation as a city of business and will boost our economy. But so too are the tens of millions who travel into and out of Glasgow Central station every year. Cancelling or disrupting commuter trains to squeeze in a two-stop tram service would be an act of economic self-harm.

Let me be crystal clear: the airport tram plan was a transport calamity waiting to happen. Opposition politicians might be happy to shrug off these concerns. If your only goal is a kick of the political football, these concerns hardly matter. For those of us wanting Glasgow properly connected to its airport by rail, they cannot be brushed aside.

What Glasgow’s City Government has done is to agree with Renfrewshire Council and the Scottish Government to commission work on an alternative means of linking the airport to the rail network. Just like Glasgow, Gatwick and Luton airports both have a rail network close by, and either operate a shuttle link to the network or are currently constructing one. We will examine these and other models.

We can learn from other European airports such as Dublin, Prague and Berlin, also currently accessible only by road and, like us, exploring workable solutions for better connectivity. Contrary to claims by Labour, very few airports operate direct service to their city centres, with most connected to existing rail networks, as we propose. The notable exception is Heathrow, where a single ticket costs £25. Why would Glasgow want to go down that route?

This project must be based on fact, not assumptions or wishful thinking. Neither is it headed for the long grass. We can have a rail link operational within the same estimated costs and timescales for the tram.

The City Government is committed to delivering a public transport link to Glasgow Airport. We will do it right, meeting the needs of all rail users, boosting Glasgow’s international status and securing economic development for the city region. Having waited 30 years for a rail link to its airport, Glasgow deserves no less.