Train Disruption Warned In Rail Strike
21 June 2016, 08:13
Rail passengers have been warned to expect disruption as the first in a series of planned strikes in a dispute over driver-only trains gets under way.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is pressing ahead with the industrial action on Tuesday after eleventh-hour talks to try to avoid the walkout broke down.
Train operator ScotRail said tens of thousands of its customers will be disrupted and accused the RMT of building their strike campaign on "misinformation''.
It is estimated the firm will be able to run about 70% of its services during the day of action.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf urged both sides to keep talking, as he described the action as "very disappointing''.
The RMT, which is opposed to the extension of driver-only (DOO) and driver-controlled (DCO) services during the lifetime of the current Abellio ScotRail franchise, balloted ScotRail conductors last month, saying it had not received the assurances it had sought on the issue from the operator.
These included guarantees the safety role of conductors and their role in operating train doors would not be reduced or abolished.
Guards at the RMT backed walkouts by a ratio of 3:1, prompting the union to announce seven days of strikes during June and July.
The first day-long strike got under way first thing on Tuesday after planned peace talks failed on Monday.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The workforce know that any extension of DOO or DCO is a clear attack on our members' hard-earned terms and conditions.
"RMT members should not have to face the risk of their role and responsibilities being reduced and undermined.
"The workforce also know only too well that there is a very real threat to passengers of watering down and wiping out the safety critical role of the guard on these ScotRail services. That is a lethal gamble with basic rail safety.''
ScotRail managing director Phil Verster said the strike is "totally needless''.
He said: "The RMT have refused point blank to talk to us about how we modernise and improve Scotland's railway. Instead they have hidden behind a national policy that says that nothing must ever change.
"Tens of thousands of our customers will be disrupted and hundreds of our own people will be hit financially as a result of their intransigence.
"The public will be astonished to hear that this is a strike only about who opens and closes doors on trains, nothing more.
"The RMT are being, at best, disingenuous when they tell people that we are trying to have driver-only trains. We are not. We will still schedule a second person on-board when we bring in the amazing new faster, longer, greener electric trains from next year.''
The Scottish Government urged commuters to consider car-sharing or working from home, with an increase in traffic predicted on the roads.
The government has been discussing contingency plans for the strike at its resilience committee.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said passengers should be prepared for significant disruption on the railways on Tuesday.
He added: "It's very disappointing to see industrial action set to go ahead on our railways and we continue to urge further dialogue between ScotRail and the RMT union.
"The walkout will have a significant impact on rail passengers who depend on these services, so I urge both parties to get back round the table immediately and work towards an agreement so that strikes can be avoided.''