Passengers are facing severe disruption across Scotland’s railways due to fresh strikes by thousands of workers in the bitter row over jobs, pay and conditions.
Industrial action by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail began on Wednesday morning, with just five services running across the country.
A limited number of trains are running on key routes between Glasgow and Edinburgh; Edinburgh and Bathgate; Glasgow and Hamilton/Larkhall; and Glasgow and Lanark.
Picket lines are being mounted outside railway stations across Scotland, including at Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley, and at depots.
We'll only be able to run a skeleton service on five routes in Scotland today (Wed 27 July) due to strike action by RMT members of Network Rail. These limited services start at 07:30 and will end at 18:30.
Please plan ahead to ensure you know when your last train will run.
— ScotRail (@ScotRail) July 27, 2022
A protest is planned outside Network Rail’s head office in Glasgow.
ScotRail has urged passengers to check their journeys before travelling and only do so if necessary.
Trains are expected to be disrupted on Thursday morning as well, with a later start to services as employees return to duties.
Scotland’s transport minister said the UK Government needs to “inject the political willing” to resolve disputes across the rail network – but she insisted there is a distinction between the current strikes and the action taken by ScotRail staff in the last few weeks.
Appearing on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Jenny Gilruth said it is “vitally important” for all parties to work together to find a resolution.
But she said the Department for Transport’s stance – that it is not the job of UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to resolve the problem himself – is “interesting”.
Ms Gilruth said: “You will recall that I was repeatedly called upon by opposition members, including those in the Conservative Party, to involve myself directly in the dispute that we’ve had in Scotland.
“I think it is important to draw a distinction between the dispute in Scotland, which was resolved and we have reinstated the full timetable in Scotland.
“That was done amicably and with respect on both sides, and what we’ve seen in the UK-wide dispute seems to be quite a different approach in the UK Government. with some belligerence from the UK Government.
“It’s vitally important now that Grant Shapps instructs Network Rail and the train operating companies to get back around the negotiating table with the trade unions, which is exactly what I did with ScotRail in the most recent dispute, so that we can get to that resolution to reinstate full services and to avoid any further strikes.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “It is a matter for unions and employers – not Government – to engage in meaningful talks on modernisation practices to avoid damaging strike action and prevent chaos on the railways. Government is not the employer here.
“Previously, when there were strikes by firefighters and post workers, the then Labour government said it’s between employers and unions, and we are continuing with that position.
“It’s important that ministers remain close to the ongoing situation regarding negotiations to ensure that railway staff, passengers and taxpayers are getting a fair deal.
“Industry is offering daily talks to the unions. We encourage the unions to stay at the negotiating table.”
Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) at Avanti West Coast are also striking on Wednesday, which will affect services between Glasgow and London, while members of drivers’ union Aslef at eight companies will walk out on Saturday.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said union members are more determined than ever to secure a decent pay rise, job security and good working conditions.
He said: “Network Rail have not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new.
“In fact Network Rail have upped the ante, threatening to impose compulsory redundancies and unsafe 50% cuts to maintenance work if we did not withdraw our planned strike action.
“The train operating companies have put driver-only operations on the table along with ransacking our members’ terms and conditions.
“RMT will continue to negotiate in good faith but we will not be bullied or cajoled by anyone.
“The Government need to stop their interference in this dispute so the rail employers can come to a negotiated settlement with us.”
Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Despite our best efforts to find a breakthrough, I’m afraid there will be more disruption for passengers this week as the RMT seems hell-bent on continuing their political campaigning, rather than compromising and agreeing a deal for their members.
“I can only apologise for the impact this pointless strike will have on passengers, especially those travelling for holidays or attending events such as the Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final (Wednesday) and the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games (Thursday).
“It is frustrating to yet again ask our passengers to change their plans and only make essential journeys.
“Only around half of Britain’s rail network will be open on Wednesday, with a very limited service running on lines that will only be open from around 7.30am until 6.30pm.
“Passengers who must travel are urged to plan ahead to ensure that they can complete their journeys within this window, with last services from London to Scotland, for example, leaving in the early afternoon.”
Strikes were held in June, and more are planned next month, with little sign of a breakthrough to the deadlocked dispute.
Members of the RMT and TSSA will strike on August 18 and 20, with the co-ordinated action set to cause travel chaos.