In 2006, the UK and European economy was still in a very healthy state, and it was during this time that various projects were announced and passed before being cancelled later on due to spiralling costs. One such project was the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, or GARL as sometimes known. The project was simple, a purpose new built 1.2 mile line branching off the Inverclyde Line just south of Paisley Gilmour Street, passing over the M8 motorway and terminating at Glasgow Airport itself, providing a direct link from the airport to Glasgow Central, right in the heart of the city. Critics however disapproved of the plans, local residents in the Paisley area were concerned of plans to direct the line across a new viaduct over playing fields close to Paisley St James, SPT later reassured them the fields would be returned to original use with better facilities installed, and the project was also criticised for having no direct link to locations north of Glasgow bypassing Glasgow Central entirely, using either electrification of the Shotts Line to Edinburgh or the Glasgow Crossrail scheme (essentially London Crossrail, only smaller). Despite this, the scheme was approved, and plans were further consulted. However, due to economic downturn and the need to cut public spending, the airport branch component of the scheme was cut in 2009. However plans to increase service capacity and construct a new platform at Glasgow Central were still in advanced planning stages, and were to go ahead.
During the projects infancy, the need for rolling stock was also addressed. First Scotrail uses Class 334 "Juniper" and Class 318 EMUs on the Ayrshire Coast Line, and the occasional Class 314 on the Inverclyde Line as well as both of the above. Additional vehicles would have been required to alleviate problems with reducing services on other parts of the Scotrail network, so SPT released a tender for 120 vehicles for exactly the purpose of operating Glasgow Central - Glasgow Airport services. Siemens were awarded the contract, and the new trains were of the already well known Desiro UK family, albeit with a radical new front end design with a sloping gangway end to increase aerodynamic efficiency, along with an improved AC system and onboard electrical equipment designed to reduce energy use and increase economic efficiency in running costs. (They're Germans after all, we all know how efficient Germans like to be
). The new trains are designated Class 380, and following the cancellation of GARL were instead put to use on the Inverclyde, Ayrshire Coast and North Berwick lines, the latter use cascading Class 322 units to Northern, who now operate them on the West Yorkshire electric services on the Airedale and Ilkley lines. A total of 38 trainsets were ordered, all of which are now delivered.
Class 380 number 380007 "Sean Connery" (not really, but that would be neat) stands as an exhibit at Railfest 2012, York National Railway Museum on 9th June 2012.