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Monday, May 20, 2024

Festive disruption as strikes cripple rail network

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Christmas nights out across Scotland face disruption this weekend as strikes cripple the rail network.

ScotRail is only running 12 routes in the central belt, Fife and the Borders until Sunday after RMT members at Network Rail rejected the latest offer from their employers.

Hospitality bosses have warned the industrial action is harming firms at a crucial time of year for business.

Union leaders say workers have been “pushed” into action by employers.

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The RMT members at Network Rail walked out on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as part of a long running UK-wide dispute over pay with the track operator.  

Many of the staff taking part in the strike do safety-critical jobs which means it is not possible for ScotRail, which is not involved in the dispute, to run the majority of its services.  

The RMT has scheduled further strike action from 18:00 on Christmas Eve until 06:00 on 27 December, while members of the smaller TSSA union will walk out at three train companies between 26 and 29 December.

Colin Wilkinson, managing director for the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said the strikes were having a “major impact” on businesses in the last weekend before Christmas and beyond.


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“It’s certainly not the bumper season our operators were looking for, we’re hearing trade is down by around 30%,” he told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland (GMS) programme.

Mr Wilkinson pointed out there were a range of issues affecting hospitality firms, with consumers struggling with the high cost of living.

“There’s problems with a shortage of taxis, late-night public transport, lack of staff, so it’s a very difficult season for the trade but definitely the rail strikes are having a major impact,” he said.

Hospitality bosses expect to generate about 30% of annual turnover over the festive season, the SLTA chief said. “That’s certainly not going to be the case now.

“We’re certainly seeing a major drop and a lot more cancellations coming in.”

‘Bitterly disappointed’

Mr Wilkinson added: “It’s not only for nights out that we’re seeing increases in cancellations for, it’s short-stay vacations, family gatherings, particularly because of rail travel concerns.”

He said the SLTA was also “bitterly disappointed” by the Scottish budget after calls for a 75% rates relief package for businesses were not implemented.

The SLTA chief said: “In our 140 year history … I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s it’s actually worse than Covid because we don’t have the support.”

The Scottish government said its budget, which included a freeze on non-domestic rates, would save business tax rate payers £308m compared with an inflationary increase.

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Dave Moxham, deputy general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), said rail workers did not want to be on picket lines in freezing conditions, but had been forced into action in pursuit of better pay and conditions.

“They really have just been pushed to a position, both in terms of their own pay but also in terms of some of the future plans for their industry, that they find unacceptable,” Mr Moxham told the programme.

“That’s why they’re braving the cold and I think getting a significant degree of public support as a consequence.”

He added: “Let’s hope that the employers have the same level of regret as we do that it’s happening and move back to the table towards resolution.”

Saturday is the fourth day of strikes this week and the 12th since the RMT union voted for industrial action in the summer. Disruption is also likely on Sunday, a non-strike day, due to morning services starting later.


Which ScotRail services are running?

ScotRail said the railway would only be operational between 07:30 and 18:30 on Saturday.

The services that will run are:

Edinburgh – Glasgow via Falkirk High: Two trains per hour

Edinburgh – Helensburgh: Two trains per hour

Edinburgh – Glasgow via Shotts: One train per hour

Edinburgh – Cowdenbeath: Two trains per hour 

Edinburgh – Tweedbank: Two trains per hour 

Edinburgh – North Berwick: One train per hour 

Edinburgh – Larbert: One train per hour

Glasgow – Larbert: One train per hour 

Glasgow – Falkirk Grahamston: One train per hour 

Glasgow – Hamilton/Larkhall: Two trains per hour

Glasgow – Lanark: Two trains per hour

Milngavie – Springburn: Two trains per hour

Final services will depart well before 18:30, and customers are being urged to plan ahead to ensure they know when their last train will run.

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