UNIONS have demanded a face-to-face meeting with Nicola Sturgeon to call on her to reject ScotRail plans to axe 300 services each day – as leaders made an 11th hour call for rail managers to enter negotiations with an open mind to prevent Cop 26 trains disruption.
ASLEF, the train drivers’ union and three other trade unions which represent other workers on Scotland’s railway network – the RMT, TSSA, and Unite – have united to call on the SNP government to “step up to the plate” and put the people of Scotland – passengers as well as staff – first by ensuring that train services are not slashed.
They have written asking her to meet them at Bute House a week next Wednesday when they will be demonstrating outside, on World Car-Free Day, to discuss the future of rail services in Scotland.
Last month ScotRail published a plan to cut 300 rail services per day from its timetable.
The rail operator’s “Fit for the Future” document shows the company wants to drop from its pre-Covid number of 2,400 services a day to 2,100 in line with new travel patterns and overcapacity on some routes.
Railway unions have accused the company of using Covid as a cover for cuts.
ScotRail has been running just over 2,000 services per day while pandemic restrictions have been in place.
Kevin Lindsay, ASLEF’s organiser in Scotland, said: “We want to see a modern, clean, green, affordable, and reliable train service that meets the needs of the people, the communities, and the businesses we serve.
“We fear that Abellio ScotRail is set to slash services – which will affect passengers and businesses throughout this country – and cut jobs, which will affect our members.”
Meanwhile Unite Scotland have called on ScotRail to come into talk on Wednesday (September 15) with a view to negotiating, rather than retaining their long-held position.
Railway bosses have been warned that an engineering workers dispute threatens to bring Scotland’s railways to a grinding halt when the world’s eyes are on the nation during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow in November.
The rolling industrial action set for September 24 by 250 engineers alone, who provide maintenance, overhaul and repair services for the railway rolling stock, would bring the nation’s railways to a standstill and cause major disruption to passengers.
After months of impasse with unions and after the intervention of ministers, ScotRail, run by Dutch state-owned transport firm Abellio, are to hold discussions with those representing the engineering staff to end the dispute – which could have ramifications for a series of parallel staff grievances.
But ScotRail insisted on the eve of the talks that it position remains the same as it has been for several months: “There is no extra money.”
Mr Lindsay added: “Abellio ScotRail appears, perversely, to want the railway to contract and decline rather than to expand and grow. Conversely, the rail unions want the railway to thrive to help our economy succeed.
“And rail is the green transport solution. It would be ironic if, in the year this country hosts COP26, Abellio ScotRail drive people and freight back onto our roads.”