Travellers by rail and sea in Scotland are facing wide-ranging cancellations due to ferry mishaps and rail disputes.
Seven hundred trains have been cancelled on ScotRail – representing about one-third of the normal 2,150 weekday services – as a new “temporary timetable” takes effect.
The cutbacks have been precipitated by a nationwide shortage of train drivers and a dispute with their union, Aslef. Many drivers are refusing to work on their rest days.
Almost 350 trains were cancelled across the ScotRail network on Sunday. The working week began with drastically reduced links – including the removal of two of the three direct trains from Mallaig via Fort William to Glasgow Queen Street. The only service of the day leaves the west coast port at 6.03am.
ScotRail is telling passengers: “We’ve been relying on drivers working overtime or on their rest days to run a normal timetable, as the pandemic meant that training new drivers was significantly delayed.
“Without Covid and that impact on training, we would have trained around an extra 130 drivers today.
“A significant number of drivers have been declining to make themselves available for overtime or rest day working.
“This has resulted in the recent disruption and our need to introduce a temporary timetable.”
Many of the axed trains are evening services. The last trains from Glasgow to Dundee and Stirling will depart four hours earlier than normal, at 7.10pm and 7.49pm respectively.
From Inverness to Aberdeen, the last train of the day runs at 6.50pm, rather than 9.33pm.
In a Commons debate on Thursday, before the temporary timetable was revealed, the SNP government was accused of allowing the rail unions too much power.
Chris Loder, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, said: “It is clear that the Scottish government have allowed the unions to run the railways in Scotland, hence the difficulties, particularly at weekends.”
Gavin Newlands, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, rejected the criticism, saying: “With its integrated approach to track and train in Scotland, ScotRail provides the rest of the UK with an exemplar of how to run a rail system.”
One positive railway development in Scotland is the reopening of a station at Reston on East Coast main line. The £20m development fills a 30-mile gap between Dunbar and the first station in England, Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Meanwhile, Caledonian MacBrayne, which runs ferry services in the Western Isles, has cancelled multiple voyages due to ships being out of commission.
Two vessels that normally serve the Outer Hebrides have been withdrawn for repairs: MV Lord of the Isles and MV Hebrides. The latter struck a pier at Lochmaddy in North Uist last Wednesday.
Half the sailings between Ardrossan in Ayrshire and Brodick on the isle of Arran have been cancelled as one of the ships has been deployed to replace the two out-of-commission ships.
The firm says: “It has been necessary to amend the timetables to a single vessel service in order to protect lifeline services across the network.”
The normal interval between departures of 80 minutes has been doubled.
Caledonian MacBrayne says: “MV Isle of Arran will return to the service with the 16:40 sailing from Ardrossan on Tuesday 24 May.”