Health impacts of the M74 motorway extension

A new five-mile section of the M74 motorway opened in south Glasgow in 2011. We were a partner in a three-year research study (running between 2013-2016) which set out to examine whether and how the M74 motorway extension affected key aspects of health and health-related behaviour in the local population, building on baseline research carried out in 2005 during the motorway construction. M74 health impacts infographic

Building new roads in urban areas has the potential to reduce injuries from road traffic accidents, to improve people’s access to amenities and opportunities, and to help regenerate disadvantaged communities.

However, it may encourage car use in ways that degrade the local environment, harm people’s health and wellbeing, and widen inequalities. There is little good evidence about these impacts that can be used to guide transport policy and planning. 

We wanted to find out more about road traffic accidents, activity patterns and wellbeing in the local area, and to explore if and how these changed as a result of the motorway. We used a combination of research methods to investigate how people’s health and health-related behaviour changed over time and how these changes may have been related to the new motorway. We also analysed official statistics on travel and road traffic casualties, and spoke with a variety of community organisations and local people who had not taken part in the research.

We found that on balance, the new motorway appeared to have promoted car use. We found no evidence that it had reduced road traffic casualties or increased active travel. Although it did help to connect some local residents, particularly those with access to cars, with amenities and people in other places, those living nearer to the motorway tended to experience poorer mental wellbeing over time than those living further away.

M74 accident trends infographic

Access a summary of research findings and the full report. 

Research partners

The study was led by the MRC Epidemiology Unit under the auspices of the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR)  Other collaborators were the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, the Public Health group at the University of Glasgow, the University of East Anglia, and the University of Edinburgh.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). We were also responsible for leading a programme of community engagement in relation to the study with the help of the Scottish Community Development Centre and for leading the interface between the research team and the wider stakeholder community. 

Community engagement M74 community engagement infographic

Our community engagement activities and events found that different communities, different audiences and different individuals had very different opinions about the motorway ranging from positive to neutral to negative views.

Access the report on our programme of community engagement and a short summary of the report is also available (PDF). Read our blog, written to discuss the opening of the extension in 2011.

You can also download the infographics as a PDF document

Journal articles relating to the M74 research

Longitudinal association between change in the neighbourhood built environment and the wellbeing of local residents in deprived areas: an observational study.
Foley L, Coombes E, Hayman D, Humphreys D, Jones A, Mitchell R and Ogilvie D. BMC Public Health 2018 18:545 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5459-9

Effect of a new motorway on social-spatial patterning of road traffic accidents: A retrospective longitudinal natural experimental study. 
Olsen JR, Mitchell R, Ogilvie D, on behalf of the M74 study team (2017) PLoS ONE12(9): e0184047. 

Effects of urban motorways on physical activity and sedentary behaviour in local residents: a natural experimental study. Prins R, Foley L, Mutrie N, Ogilvie D, on behalf of the M74 study team. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2017;14:102.  

Health impacts of the M74 urban motorway extension: a mixed-method natural experimental study. 
Ogilvie D, Foley L, Nimegeer A, Olsen J, Mitchell R, Thomson H, Crawford F, Prins R, Hilton S, Jones A, Humphreys D, Sahlqvist S, Mutrie N. Public Health Res 2017; 5: 3.  

Effects of living near an urban motorway on the wellbeing of local residents in deprived areas: natural experimental study. 
Foley L, Prins R, Crawford F, Humphreys D, Mitchell R, Sahlqvist S, Thomson H, Ogilvie D, on behalf of the M74 study team. PLoS ONE 2017; 12: e0174882.  

Effects of living near a new urban motorway on the travel behaviour of local residents in deprived areas: evidence from a natural experimental study. 
Foley L, Prins R, Crawford F, Sahlqvist S, Ogilvie D, on behalf of the M74 study team. Health Place 2017; 43: 57-65.  

Effects of new motorway infrastructure on active travel in the local population: a retrospective repeat cross-sectional study in Glasgow, Scotland. 
Olsen J, Mitchell R, Ogilvie D, on behalf of the M74 study team.  Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2016; 13: 77.  

The effects of new urban motorway infrastructure on road traffic accidents in the local area: a retrospective longitudinal study in Scotland. 
Olsen J, Mitchell R, Mackay D, Humphreys D, Ogilvie D, on behalf of the M74 study team. J Epidemiol Community Health 2016; doi: 10.1136/jech-2016-207378.  

Shoe leather epidemiology: active travel and transport infrastructure in the urban landscape.  
Ogilvie D, Mitchell R, Mutrie N, Petticrew M, Platt S. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2010; 7: 43.  

Personal and environmental correlates of active travel and physical activity in a deprived urban population. 
Ogilvie D, Mitchell R, Mutrie N, Petticrew M, Platt S. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2008; 5: 43.  

Perceived characteristics of the environment associated with active travel: development and testing of a new scale. 
Ogilvie D, Mitchell R, Mutrie N, Petticrew M, Platt S. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2008; 5: 32.  

Evaluating health effects of transport interventions: methodologic case study.  
Ogilvie D, Mitchell R, Mutrie N, Petticrew M, Platt S. Am J Prev Med 2006; 31: 118-126.  

Further information on trends in road use

The transport section of the Understanding Glasgow website provides details of trends in road traffic volumes, licensed vehicles, travel to work and travel to school in Glasgow, in Scottish cities, within Glasgow and Clyde Valley.

Related topic: Places and regeneration