How to travel to Glasgow COP26 by public transport
by Richard Hammond
COP26 is being held from the 31st October to 12th November 2021 at The Scottish Event Campus (SEC), which is in Glasgow's west end not far from the city centre and has its own railway station, so it's pretty easy to reach by public transport. Here are some of the many low carbon travel options, whether you've travelling a short distance by train, bus or bike, or long distance, by train, cargo boat or yacht.
From within Glasgow: There's a dedicated railway station actually right outside SEC, called the 'Exhibition Centre', so it's really easy to travel there by train from Glasgow's city centre and suburbs: there are six trains an hour (around every 10 minutes) from Glasgow Central station, departing from Platform 17 (low level), the journey takes just 3 minutes. If you're staying in Glasgow, you can take the subway from 15 points across the city to St. Enoch stop, from where it's a few minutes’ walk to Central Station for onward transfer to The SEC; see the Glasgow Subway map.
For the latest news about local transport in Glasgow leading up to and during COP26, see this page on Transport Scotland. There is also lots of useful information on the dedicated website: Get Ready Glasgow.
From outside Glasgow: There are more than 20 direct trains per day to Glasgow from London Euston station on the West Coast Line via Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western, Preston (Lancs), Lancaster, Oxenholme Lake District, and Carlisle with Avanti West Coast - the fastest train is just less than 5 hours. Other main railway hub cities connect with the West Coast Line, for example, from Birmingham you'd go to Preston (Lancs) and from Manchester you'd go to Wigan North Western.
Important: Trains from London Euston arrive in to Glasgow at Glasgow Central. Trains from Edinburgh arrive in to either Glasgow Queens Street or Glasgow Central, so do check which one before you get on the train. The good news is that it's just a short walk from Glasgow Queens Street to Glasgow Central, or you could take the short bus ride; see the bus timetable from Glasgow Queens Street to Glasgow Central.
You can also take the train from London to Edinburgh on the East Coast Line with LNER (again there are multiple trains every day from London to Edinburgh - the fastest train from London King's Cross to Edinburgh is just 4 and 19 minutes on its new electric Azuma trains) then change at Edinburgh railway station (confusingly, it's also known as Edinburgh Waverley station) and take the fast intercity train across to Glasgow. There are multiple trains from Edinburgh station running every 15 minutes on weekdays - the fastest train takes just over 45 minutes.
Travelling in a Group: If you're travelling as part of a delegation, or just with a few other colleagues, there are group discounts of up to 20% available, see: Group travel with Avanti West Coast and Group Travel on LNER. If there are just two travelling, there's the 'Two Together' railcard, see Avanti West Coast Railcards.
Eurostar is also running a dedicated service from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Brussels to Glasgow via London for delegates travel to Cop26, see: All Aboard the Climate Train
For travel from further afield, there has been renaissance of rail in Europe over the last few years and there are plenty of high speed trains through the continent as well as overnight services that will save you on the expense of a hotel. The best place to find information about international train travel is the website seat61.com. It's possible to travel from China by train on the Trans Mongolia Express to Moscow from where you can take trains to Paris and then take the Eurostar to London, see: Moscow-Paris train. From Africa, you could travel to Morocco and then take the ferry over to southern Spain and from there the train to Paris to catch the Eurostar to London.
By Cargo Ship If you're coming from a long distance outside of Europe and trains are not possible, you could travel on a cargo ship as a paying passenger, though you will need to allow for several weeks travel. Facilities are pretty limited, you’ll get a room and access to a dining room and lounge (there can be basic gyms and a swimming pool). The Cruise People can arrange passenger trips on board cargo boats run by shipowners from the UK, France, Germany and Italy, for trips all over the world, including the Far East and China. Most arrive into the UK at Southampton from where you can get the train up to London and follow the information given above for how to travel by train up to Glasgow.
Another way of travelling long distance to COP26 without flying is to join someone's passage to Europe by yacht. There are plenty of unpaid opportunities for recreational crew on leisure boats or yachts that are used for non-commercial activities, such as amateur sailing, racing, sports, fishing, and diving. In return for your passage, you’ll have to follow instructions from the skipper to help out with the safe running of the vessel. Just make sure you find out before you hit the high seas what exactly will be expected of you, whether you need to contribute to costs, such as food, fuel, and mooring, and whether there are any reimbursed expenses for pre-agreed expenses. There are several websites that pair up crews with yachts, including findacrew.net and cruiserlog.com.
From within Glasgow: The Riversider 100 service operates from George Square in Glasgow city centre directly to the SEC; see the timetable for the Riversider 100 service.
From outside Glasgow: National Express Coach services run from cities throughout the UK to Glasgow's main coach depot - Glasgow Buchanan. From London the quickest journey takes 8.5 hours, from Manchester the fastest is just over 5 hours, from Birmingham the fastest is 6 hours 40 mins. From several other cities you have to change in Birmingham, e.g. from Bristol (total travel time 11 hours), from Cardiff (total travel time 11 hours 50 mins).
There are several routes to The SEC by bike, see this handy map of cycling routes in Glasgow. Plan your route using the excellent cyclestreets.net, which allows you to select the quickest route, the quietest route, or a balance of the two. The city has a bike hire scheme similar called Nextbike, which has 700 bikes and e-bikes in over 50 locations, available 24/7. It is available to use via an Android and iPhone App, via the on-bike computer, or by phoning +44 (0) 20 816 69851. Rental starts at £1 for the first 30 minutes. Please note: there may be disruption to cycle routes close to the venue at SEC so do check the latest information on the dedicated website: getreadyglasgow.com/cop26
If there is no other option for you to get to COP26 than to fly and you feel your attendance at COP26 is worth the flight (remember some of the long-haul planes burn a gallon of fossil fuel a second*), then below are the ways to travel on public transport to the venue from the main airports in Scotland. If you fly into one of the main airports in England, such as Birmingham, Manchester or any of the London airports, then follow the information provided above for travelling by public transport to Cop26. There are a few direct trains from both Birmingham International and Manchester airport to Glasgow Central, though do check before you book as there are also some services that require a change of train (e.g. at Wigan North Western from Manchester, and at Preston from Birmingham).
From Glasgow Airport: Airport buses run to Glasgow city centre near to Glasgow Central station every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, and take about 25 minutes.
From Prestwick Airport: There are three trains per hour on weekdays and the journey to Glasgow Central Station takes about 50 minutes. There is also an early morning and late evening Express Bus Service, the X99/X100, which takes an hour.
From Edinburgh Airport: Scottish Citylink provides bus services from Edinburgh Airport to Glasgow’s Buchanan Bus Station every 30 minutes. Alternatively you can take a bus to Edinburgh Haymarket and then catch a train to Glasgow Queen Street station.
* For more information on the huge amount of carbon emissions associated with flying, see Atmosfair’s Airline Index and the associated document Flight Emissions Calculator, which explains its methodology.