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Union bosses urge ministers to reconsider £100m cuts to rail budget in light of Stonehaven derailment

Scottish ministers propose to reduce the rail improvements budget by £969,000 until 2023.
Scottish ministers propose to reduce the rail improvements budget by £969,000 until 2023.

Union bosses have accused ministers of “playing fast and loose with people’s lives” as they propose to cut £100million from the budget over the next two years.

Figures released in the Scottish Governments budget data shows expenditure on rail infrastructure will be reduced by around £107m until 2023.

Ministers propose to reduce expenditure from £534m in 2020/21 to £427m in 2022/23.

Further data has also suggested £74m could be axed from the budget next year alone.

Officials fear further cuts will put lives at risk; particularly in the wake of the Stonehaven train crash.

The first carriage being removed from the Stonehaven rail crash site.

Driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and Christopher Stuchbury, a passenger onboard, died after the 6:38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street service derailed on August 12 last year near Carmont.

Six fellow passengers were also transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with minor injuries.

Speaking with The Herald, RMT Scottish regional organiser Gordon Martin said without adequate expenditure on Scotland’s existing rail network, the “consequences may be severe.”

‘It is totally unacceptable’

He said: “It’s all smoke and mirrors. There is work that needs to be done.
“That infrastructure fund has been cut year on year. And we are already seeing redundancies in this sector in the supply chain.

“It is totally unacceptable.

He added: “It is unacceptable that skilled workers are facing the dole when there is plenty of work for them.”

“Current work is falling down because they can’t get the labour.

“There is a perfect storm coming.

“My concern is that if they don’t carry out they rail enhancements my fear is we could see a Carmont situation again. Because the purpose of these renewals is to improve resilience and if that doesn’t happen, well, the consequences can be severe.”

In July, last year it was recorded that Network Rail Scotland saved more than £46 million in one year as it looked to deliver £347 million efficiency savings over five years.


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‘Failings in inspecting drainage point’

In a second interim report, published by the UK Government’s Department for Transport (DfT), findings showed a lack of monitoring to part of the line’s key drainage system.

The report, written by by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), found that Network Rail had failed to inspect part of the drainage points, known as Catchpit 18. between its construction in 2012 and the derailment.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The Scottish Government needs to stop playing fast and loose with people’s lives.”

Officials stressed further investigation was needed to determine whether the design of the drainage system “contributed to the displacement of material”.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch added: “These swinging cuts to the rail budget in Scotland are simply staggering.

“The Scottish Government needs to stop playing fast and loose with people’s lives and ensure that the rail network in Scotland is fit for purpose.”

The final report into the train derailment is due to be released in January.

Mr Lynch is calling on the government to reconsider their plans to help safeguard the safety of rail passengers.

He said: “The safety of rail workers and passengers should be paramount and it is utterly reckless for the Scottish Government to make these cuts before we know the full recommendations following the rail disaster at Carmont and I am calling on the Government to reconsider.”

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “These claims are wrong in that, as opposed to cuts, this is simply a case of work being re-profiled over the current five year rail funding period.

“Indeed, it is quite the opposite as there has been an increase in the overall rail budget for the funding period, during which time the full value of CP6 ORR determination will be delivered.”

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