This week Mike Edwards shares his vision of a reborn Helensburgh pier – and a joined-up transport strategy for the town.

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The good burghers of Victorian Helensburgh put the kybosh on it from the start.

The reason? The dust from the coal and the noise and smoke from the locomotives was too much to bear for this douce town.

So the pier, and a railway spur to service it, were shunted along the coast a mile or two to Craigendoran. In my view, when the plan to make Helensburgh an integrated transport hub was derailed, it was a huge mistake.

The spur allowed trains to exit the main line from Glasgow and roll down to the pier where steamers waited to transfer passengers up and down the Clyde for leisure or business.

READ MORE: Could small cruise ships pay visits to a renewed Helensburgh pier?

In the heady days when few of us had cars, and relied on trains and steamers to enjoy increasing amounts of leisure time and go about the place at will, the services were incredibly busy and lucrative.

But as times changed and habits changed with them, the development of the internal combustion engine and production line technology meant owning a motor car was cheap and easy for people who could not previously have afforded one.

An increase in the number of cars meant people could go where they wanted, when they wanted to and not be at the whim of a timetable any more. The Craigendoran tracks were lifted and the pier became disused.


The former Craigendoran pier, pictured by Advertiser reader Alan Frew

The former Craigendoran pier, pictured by Advertiser reader Alan Frew


For several years in the 1990s I lived in Switzerland where integrated transport links were the norm and trains met up with boats, which met up with rack railways, which met up with funiculars, which met up with cable cars, which met up with post buses. It really was a fantastic system where everything meshed together for the common good.

Tourism is such an important part of Scotland’s economy, particularly as it recovers from Covid, and if we are lucky enough to have a good summer and/or a kind winter, we can have year-round visitors. We should surely be doing all we can to cater for them and keep them in Helensburgh long enough to spend a few quid.

READ MORE: New hope for Helensburgh pier in plans for bid to UK Government's Levelling Up Fund

Yes, the pier has fallen into disrepair. But it is listed and it deserves some TLC. A little investment would see it fit to cater for at the very least the summer trade and possibly an awful lot more.

The paddle steamer Waverley used to stop regularly, which was fantastic. How about a regular four-vessel shuttle up and down the Clyde from Glasgow to Bute and back, stopping at Helensburgh, Gourock, Dunoon and Largs? Or how about a fast hydrofoil/hovercraft service from Helensburgh pier to a specially-built terminal on the River Cart to facilitate foot passengers for Glasgow Airport?

How’s that for integrated transport thinking?

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