PASSENGER trains are set to return to the Lanarkshire town of Larkhall in October 2005, following a final go-ahead for a £35m project.

Scottish Transport Minister Nicol Stephen confirmed on December 5 that the Scottish Executive would lift its funding contribution from £16m to £25m, reflecting increases in the projected cost since the scheme was authorised in August 2001. Strathclyde Passenger Transport is contributing £9·1m and South Lanarkshire Council £400000.

Network Rail has selected Carillion as preferred bidder for the construction work, which is expected to get underway in February. As well as reinstatement of the 4·7 km branch from Hamilton serving intermediate stations at Merryton and Chatelheraut, the package also includes reconstruction of a 1·6 km curve from Anniesland to Maryhill, with a new station at Dawsholm, to relieve congestion at Westerton in northwest Glasgow.

From October 2005 a half-hourly service will link Larkhall and Dalmuir via Hamilton and Glasgow Central (Low Level), providing a 10 min interval service on the Argyle line through the city centre. As an intermediate stage, SPT expects to launch a quarter-hourly frequency between Hamilton and Anderston in December 2004.

A week earlier, Stephen confirmed that Strathclyde Passenger Transport had been awarded a £500000 grant to fund a feasibility study for the Glasgow Crossrail project, which would reopen to passengers a cross-city link to connect Falkirk and Stirling with a new branch to Glasgow Airport.