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ScotRail timetable cuts could last weeks, operator concedes

ScotRail is introducing a temporary timetable from Monday (Jane Barlow/PA)
ScotRail is introducing a temporary timetable from Monday (Jane Barlow/PA)

A temporary timetable which will see almost a third of ScotRail services cut as drivers stage industrial action could be in place for weeks, the company has said.

The new timetable will come in on Monday amid an ongoing pay dispute with train drivers’ union Aslef which has seen drivers decline to work overtime or rest days.

ScotRail, which was nationalised last month, announced the move on Wednesday and said the temporary timetable will provide greater certainty for passengers following a raft of service cancellations recently.

David Simpson, ScotRail service delivery director, said it is hoped the temporary timetable will only be in place in the short term, but that depends on talks with the union.

He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday: “I’d hope temporary means as short as possible but it does depend on making some progress with the pay talks which are the root cause of this problem.

“We’re trying to minimise the impact of this by making the service more predictable to customers and we plan to leave this timetable in place until we make any progress in the pay talks, which would see a resumption of the normal levels of overtime working which are currently necessary to run the full service because of the impact the pandemic had on our driver training programme over the last couple of years.”

Asked whether the timetable could be in place for weeks or potentially months, he said: “I hope it’s less than that, I’m always hopeful we’ll make some progress, I think certainly weeks is potentially possible but we’ll do everything in our power to keep the duration of this as short as possible.”

He said there will be a review process to look at how the temporary timetable is affecting customers and how it is being delivered, and if improvements can be made ScotRail will do so.

Mr Simpson said the operator is keen to get round the table with Aslef and resolve the issue.

He said: “We’ve made a very good offer to Aslef which includes both the 2.2% on basic pay and the opportunity to participate in a revenue share arrangement to share in ScotRail’s success as passenger numbers pick up.”

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth was asked about the situation at Holyrood on Wednesday.

She said the temporary timetable was necessary because some drivers “did not take up the option of overtime and rest day working” following the decision by Aslef to ballot for industrial action over pay.

She told MSPs the revised timetable would give a “more stable and reliable service” to passengers.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson confirmed services will be “reduced to around 67% of the planned May 2022 timetable”, with the situation kept “under review to ensure that, as far as possible, passenger requirements are met”.

They said: “The difficult decision to revise the service timetable was made because of the level of disruption caused over the last two weekends by many drivers choosing not to work their rest days. That is of course their right and we respect that.

“Many of them are clearly prioritising family and leisure time over the financial benefits that come from such working, through the extended rest day working arrangements and additional payments that ScotRail negotiated with Aslef until October 2022.

“At that point, ScotRail will have a full complement of drivers fully trained and available, reducing the need for any driver to work a rest day.

“In the meantime it is important that the disruption is managed effectively with as much certainty given to the travelling public as possible.”

Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay urged the Scottish Government to liaise with unions to resolve the “complexities”.

Speaking outside the Scottish Parliament, she said: “We’d like the Scottish Government to engage with the unions and things to come to a satisfactory end so that commuters can go about their daily lives as easily as possible.”

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