Glasgow's first impressions problem

There's still something magical about train travel. No matter how cramped the service, how terrible the £3 cup of coffee, how long the delay. When you step off the train into a new city, it's exciting. 

Lots of cities have their major intercity train stations on the outskirts - Liverpool, Nottingham. But Glasgow and Edinburgh are blessed with theirs right in the centre. A massive boon for tourism, for making a great first impression - you'd think. 

And if you've been to Edinburgh, you'll know that it's hard to match that first impression (and sorry, I forgot to take a photo). Princes Street Gardens right in front of you - or a grand row of stores and hotels, if you come out the side entrance; the castle up on the hill. Hard to match, maybe. 

Perhaps that's why Glasgow doesn't even bother to try?

When you manage reputations for a living, it can be infuriating to see someone pouring the best opportunities down the drain. That feeling is multiplied many times over on the exit from Glasgow Central Station, when this is your first view of this glorious city: 

Welcome to Glasgow

Welcome to Glasgow

In case you can't make it out; this is a taxi rank, a massive pile up of turning vehicles; a Sainsbury's Local and THREE BOOKIES NEXT TO EACH OTHER. That's right - a Betfred, a William Hill AND A LADBROKES all in a row. Next to these is a former pawnbroker.

The Sainsbury's - fine. But the rest shows a lack of care for the reputation of the city that makes me quite upset. 

The options for this space, given just a tiny amount of thought and planning could be remarkable. 

Let's take a look at the station itself, shall we: 

It really is beautiful

It really is beautiful

A phenomenally gorgeous building, character in spades, well-cared for and maintained. Next door on either side are the excellent Gordon Street Coffee and the lovely Grand Central Hotel. Except, you don't see those when you leave the building, do you?

So what could be done? 

First: pedestrianise half the street. Taxis, buses etc can be managed, from a rank to the left of the station, and pick up/drop off points at the side. Currently, with vehicles pulling in, stopping, turning and pedestrians constantly running across the road, it doesn't even feel particularly safe, never mind aesthetically pleasing. 

Regarding the shops facing. It is easy, frankly, to disallow certain businesses from opening in an area to preserve its character, or for important economic reasons. It happens all the time. It really just takes someone to want it to happen. The Sainsbury's is great - useful. I think just out of shot, there's a Gregg's. Again, useful. 

But just a few streets away, there is one of the most Instagrammed places in Glasgow: Royal Exchange Square. The beautiful lights around the square and the Gallery of Modern Art mean that this is a very special place. The lights have even spilled out into other streets around. 

And in this place, there are wonderful businesses, attracted probably in some part by the fantastic location and environment. If you make the place the best you can, businesses will want to be located there.

The first impression is vital - never mind the trade from passing tourists and those waiting for a train. And who knows - maybe one day - those who might turn up just because it's a beautiful place to pass the time of day.

Lights in Royal Exchange Square