ScotRail introduces reduced timetable amid pay row

PA Media Queen Street StationPA Media

The rail operator said it wanted to ease disruption for passengers

ScotRail has introduced a temporary timetable in a bid to avert disruption to services amid a pay dispute with staff.

The rail operator will slash about 600 services from Wednesday in a bid to preserve “certainty and reliability” after four unions rejected a pay offer last week.

It led to about a quarter of services being cancelled on Sunday, with certain routes running less frequently and finishing earlier than usual.

It comes two years after a similar row resulted in large parts of Scotland’s rail network being shut down over the summer months.

ScotRail said about 1,660 trains would operate between Mondays and Saturdays under the provisional measures.

It warned that peak-time services in the morning and late afternoon would have their frequency halved from four trains per hour to two.

They include routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow, while those heading north of the central belt will also be vastly reduced.

ScotRail’s service delivery director, Mark Ilderton, urged passengers to check their journeys before setting off.

PA Media A ScotRail train at its stationPA Media

The rail operator was involved in a similar row in 2022

“We are very sorry to customers for the disruption to services,” he said.

“We are operating services which the vast majority of customers use and are still using all the available trains in our fleet so customers can continue to travel.

“We want to resolve the pay dispute with the trade unions and remain fully committed to further discussions.”

Train drivers’ union Aslef informed ScotRail on Friday it was considering a ballot for industrial action in the pay dispute.

In the meantime, a number of drivers have refused to work extra Sunday shifts and overtime, which has had an impact on services.

Unite, RMT and TSSA also rejected the pay increase offer tabled by ScotRail on Friday.

ScotRail managing director Joanne Maguire said lessons had been learned from previous strikes and the timetable put in place was “the most reliable” possible with current staffing levels.

She added the operator was working to ensure the impasse between the unions was bridged.

But she denied that ScotRail was overly reliant on rest day working.

Ms Maguire said: “The fact that this timetable has over 100 more services per day than we had two years ago demonstrates progress and proves we are less reliant on rest day working.

“We have been working really hard to negotiate a pay deal that is fair to our working staff but also still provides value for money to the taxpayer.”

‘Economic vandalism’

The publicly-owned firm was embroiled in a long-running dispute with unions in the summer of 2022.

It resulted in hundreds of services being cancelled and the rail network grinding to a halt in large parts of the country.

The rail operator said it was attempting to recruit 160 new train drivers in order to improve reliability.

But Aslef accused the Scottish government of failing to address driver shortages and pay issues.

The union’s Scottish organiser, Kevin Lindsay, said: “Rather than slashing the timetable in an act of economic vandalism that will impact towns and cities across Scotland as well as Scotland’s rail passengers, ScotRail and the Scottish government must get serious about pay and urgently get back round the negotiating table with a serious and credible offer.

“The Scottish government and ScotRail need to understand quickly that investment in our railways includes investing in its most precious resource, its workers.

“We urge them to come back to us with an offer that is serious and that treats our members with the fairness and respect they deserve.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Douglas Lumsden said the timetable was a “blow” to rail passengers.

“The reduction in services will have a major impact on people getting to and from work as well as those looking to journey by train during the school summer holidays,” he said.

“The SNP cannot hide behind ScotRail and must take responsibility for failing to tackle this situation before it reached this point.”

He added: “With major sporting events and music festivals happening imminently, it is imperative that John Swinney and his SNP colleagues get a grip of this dispute, before it deeply damages Scotland’s economy.”

Transport Scotland said that train planning and staff rotas were operational matters for ScotRail, but it expected any timetable to provide “the best reliability and availability” for passengers.

The spokeswoman added: “We acknowledge the desire of rail unions to negotiate a fair settlement for their members.

“ScotRail, as a public body and the employer, has responsibility and the ability to negotiate within the limits of public sector pay metrics.

“However, as rail unions have been made aware, any offer beyond these requires Scottish government approval at senior level following the appropriate process.”

She said Transport Scotland would encourage rail unions to continue discussions with ScotRail to reach a “mutually agreeable outcome” as soon as possible.

Source link