Just as road transport was probably the most important factor in the growth of Glasgow in the period 1770-1830, so it can be claimed that railways took over that role in the period 1830-1914. But though eclipsed as the cutting edge of transport improvement, roads in fact grew in importance. Their function, however, changed. Their role in medium and long-distance transport declined steadily as the skeletal railway network created in the 1830s and 1840s was filled in, but their role in short distance transport, complementing railways, canals and shipping, became much more critical. Indeed some of the new railway lines of the 1880s and 1890s were built in response to growing congestion in Glasgow's roads and streets.
Selecting a few key developments, one can point to the introduction of horse and steam trams in the 1870s and of electric trams in 1898-1902, to the abolition of tolls on British roads in the 1880s, and to the introduction of motor vehicles in the 1890s and early 1900s as being particularly significant. Even before these, however, the building of Great Western Road in the mid-1830s as an easily-graded straight, broad route into the city centre from the north-west provided a prototype for the radial thoroughfares laid out in the mid-19th century as the built-up area of greater Glasgow expanded. These routes proved ideal for the development of horse-bus services and then for the new horse trams in the 1870s, which in turn influenced the pattern of city growth. So important was road transport in the city that the centre was, by 1900, ringed with large stables to provide horses for literally hundreds of passenger and goods vehicles.
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