M74 and A74(M)

Two numbers, one road. The main road south from Glasgow, and indeed most of Scotland thanks to its connections with the M73 and A702, is having something of an identity crisis.

In the 1960s, most of the A74 from Gretna to Glasgow was upgraded to dual carriageway - a relatively simple job becaise it passed through vast swathes of remote country, and running a second carriageway alongside the first wasn't a problem. Near the northern end the route begins to see some larger towns, and this part was bypassed by the M74. By the early 1990s, the dual carriageway - with all its nasty right turns, sharp corners and steep hills - was becoming dangerous and overloaded. A considerable amount of money was spent, over the course of the decade, on replacing sixty miles of road with a new motorway, which was open by the early 1990s.

North of junction 13, this new motorway was mostly built on a new alignment, and was called the M74. South of there, the road was mostly upgraded from the old dual carriageway, with a service road built alongside for non-motorway traffic, and was called the A74(M). Giving an upgraded A-road a number like this is not unusual, but making a road arbitrarily change its number half way along certainly is.

The M74 has been the source of a great deal of controversy. At its northern end, in Glasgow, the last few miles that bring the motorway to its terminus on the M8 are an elevated urban motorway that was, astonishingly, built in the early 21st century and opened in 2011. This sort of project just doesn't happen in this country, and the legal and political wrangling involved to get it off the ground was nothing short of epic.

At its southern end (or, strictly, the southern end of the A74(M)), the route is a continuous motorway right down to the M1 at Rugby, thanks to the M6. When the Scottish part of the motorway was built, the new signs were manufactured with "A74(M)" and "M74" on stuck-on plates, and it is known that if these were removed it would read "M6" underneath. Originally it was proposed that it would be renumbered once the motorway was connected to the M6, but the two were linked in 2008 and no change in number ever happened. The Scottish Government are now very evasive about the whole issue, not actually ruling out the idea of ever extending the M6 into Scotland, but certainly making it clear that there's no current plan to do it.

Aside from its current peculiar number, the M74 is one of Scotland's oldest and most interesting motorways. Its early, northern section, with two lanes each way, has some odd junctions, most notably the very extravagant free-flowing interchange at Motherwell, while the newer, southern sections form a smooth, well-engineered modern road through spectacular scenery. Whatever your views on the many oddities and controversies of this motorway route, it would be hard to argue that it's ever dull.

Start
Glasgow
End
Gretna
Passes
East Kilbride
Connects to
Length
85 miles
Open Junctions Section
Dec 1966 J5-8 Bothwell → Hamilton
May 1968 J4-5 Hamilton → Draffan
Oct 1986 J8-11 Larkhall → Poniel
Nov 1987 J11-12 Poniel → Millbank
Nov 1991 J12-13 Millbank → Nether Abington
Aug 1992 J14-15* Elvanfoot → Paddy's Rickle
Dec 1992 J21-22 Kirkpatrick Fleming → Gretna
Nov 1993 J13-14 Nether Abington → Elvanfoot
Apr 1994 J1-4 Fullarton Road → Maryville
Sep 1994 J16-19 Dinwoodie Green → Ecclefechan
Jan 1995 J16*-16 St Ann's → Dinwoodie Green
Nov 1995 J19-21 Ecclefechan → Kirkpatrick Fleming
Apr 1999 J15*-16* Paddy's Rickle → St Ann's
Jun 2011 J1-3 Glasgow → Fullarton Road

Exit list

Junction   Northbound               Southbound  
1 Clyde Tunnel
Greenock
Glasgow Airport
Paisley
M8 Link
Kinning Park
Tradeston
NORTH
M8




(A8)

M8
(A8)
(A8)
Tradeston
A8
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs
1 mile, 3 lanes 1 mile, 3 lanes
1A Polmadie B763
Rutherglen (A730)
B763 B763
(A730)
Polmadie B763
Rutherglen (A730)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
0.5 miles, 3 lanes 0.5 miles, 3 lanes
Signs Signs
1 mile, 3 lanes 1 mile, 3 lanes
2 Rutherglen
Dalmarnock
A724
A724 A724 Rutherglen
Cambuslang
A724
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1.5 miles, 3 lanes  
River or canal Clyde River or canal Clyde
  1.5 miles, 3 lanes
2A Tollcross
A74
Rutherglen
(A74) Tollcross
A74
Cambuslang
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
0.5 miles, 3 lanes  
3 Shettleston
(B765)
Cambuslang
A763
A763 A763
(B765)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes Signs Signs
2.5 miles, 3 lanes 2.5 miles, 3 lanes
3A (A74)
(A721)
(B7058)
Tannochside
Uddingston
A721
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
  0.5 miles, 3 lanes
4 Stirling
Kincardine Bridge
M73 Link
Uddingston
Mount Vernon
A721 (B7058)
A74


M73

A74
(A721)

Stirling
Kincardine Bridge
Edinburgh
M73 Link
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
3 miles, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
Services Bothwell
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
  1 mile, 3 lanes
5 Bellshill
Coatbridge
East Kilbride
A725
Edinburgh (A8)
A725 A725



Bellshill
Coatbridge
East Kilbride
A725
Edinburgh (A8)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes  
Services Hamilton
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
6 Wishaw
Hamilton
Motherwell
A723
A723 A723 Motherwell
Hamilton
Wishaw
A723
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
6 miles, 2 lanes 3 miles, 2 lanes
7 A72 A72 Lanark
Larkhall
A72
LanesLanesLanesLanes
  3 miles, 2 lanes
8 Kilmarnock
Edinburgh
A71
Larkhall B7078
B7078

A71

B7078
A71 Kilmarnock
Edinburgh
A71
LanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanes
6 miles, 2 lanes 4 miles, 2 lanes
9 B7078


B7078
Kirkmuirhill
Blackwood
Lesmahagow
Coalburn
B7078
LanesLanesLanesLanes
   
10 Lesmahagow
Kirkmuirhill
Blackwood
B7078


B7078
B7078


LanesLanesLanesLanes
6 miles, 2 lanes 7 miles, 2 lanes
11 B7078




Edinburgh
Ayr
B7078 (A70)
Services Happendon
LanesLanesLanesLanes
  1 mile, 2 lanes
12
207.7 km
Edinburgh
Ayr
A70
Services Happendon
A70


A70
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
8 miles, 3 lanes 8 miles, 3 lanes
13 A74(M) becomes M74
Edinburgh A702
Lanark (A73)
Services Abington
B7078 A702


A702
M74 becomes A74(M)
Edinburgh A702
Lanark (A73)
Services Abington
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
5 miles, 3 lanes 5 miles, 3 lanes
14 Crawford
A702
Thornhill (A76)
A702
(A76)
A702

B7076
Crawford
A702
Thornhill (A76)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
13 miles, 3 lanes 13 miles, 3 lanes
15
553.3 km
Moffat
Dumfries
A701
B7076

A701
A701
(A708)
Moffat
Selkirk (A708)
A701
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
7 miles, 3 lanes 7 miles, 3 lanes
16
542 km
Johnstonebridge
B7076
Services Annandale Water
(B7076) Johnstonebridge
B7076
Services Annandale Water
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
6 miles, 3 lanes 6 miles, 3 lanes
17
532 km
Lockerbie
B7076
(B7076)
(A709)
Lockerbie
Dumfries (A709)
B7076
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 3 lanes  
18
528 km
Lockerbie
Dumfries (A709)
B723
B723 B723
(A709)
(B7076)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
4 miles, 3 lanes 6 miles, 3 lanes
19
521.5 km
Ecclefechan
B7076
B7076

B725

B7076
B725 Ecclefechan
B7076
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
20
517 km
Eaglesfield
Annan
B722
B722 B722
(B7076)
Eaglesfield
Annan
B722
Kirtlebridge B7076
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
4 miles, 3 lanes 4 miles, 3 lanes
21
511.5 km
Kirtlebridge
Kirkpatrick Fleming
B7076
Canonbie
B6357
B7076

B6357
B6357

B7076
Canonbie
B6357
Kirtlebridge
Kirkpatrick Fleming
B7076
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
508 km Services Gretna Green Services Gretna Green
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
2 miles, 3 lanes 1 mile, 3 lanes
22
505.5 km

B7076
(A6071)
B7076


Longtown (A6071)
Gretna
Green Gretna
(B7076)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
   
22
505.2 km
South West Scotland
Dumfries
Stranraer
A75
Gretna (B7076)
(A75)
(B7076)
LanesLanesLanesLanesLanes
1 mile, 3 lanes 2 miles, 3 lanes
Welcome to Scotland
M6 becomes A74(M)

M6
SOUTH
Welcome to England
A74(M) becomes M6 Link
Routes

Picture credits

  • Photograph of the A74(M) taken from an original by Andy Taylor-Lloyd and used with permission.

With thanks to Bob, Hugh Everett, Alistair Stewart, John Prentice, Stuart Clink and Bill Brown for information on this page.