ScotRail to cancel 90% of trains and run only five routes during three days of signallers' strikes
Almost 90 per cent of ScotRail’s train services will be cancelled as the country is next week hit by one of the biggest strikes in 30 years, with a “very limited” Edinburgh-Glasgow service one of just five routes due to operate.
The walkouts on Tuesday, June 21, Thursday, June 23 and Saturday, June 25 by Network Rail staff, including signallers along with workers from 13 train operators based south of the Border, will also see Caledonian Sleeper services suspended from Monday to Friday with 3,000 bookings being cancelled.
Avanti West Coast will run up to only four services between Glasgow and London in each direction, while CrossCountry will slash its cross-Border services to and from Edinburgh from 14 to four in each direction.
TransPennine Express has cancelled its west coast cross-Border services and Edinburgh-London operator Lumo is also likely to be affected.
The Jacobite steam train between Fort William and Mallaig, run by West Coast Railways, is also likely to be halted, Network Rail said.
ScotRail warned passengers there would be “significant disruption” both on the strike days and the days after them.
The strikes by Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members is over pay and threatened redundancies.
ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper staff are not involved, but their services will be affected because of signallers taking part in the action.
ScotRail said it would only be able to run some 180 of the 1,456 trains in its temporary timetable, which has been reduced by a third as part of a separate pay dispute with its train drivers.
They will operate only on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line via Falkirk High, a secondary line between the cities via Shotts, Edinburgh-Bathgate, and Glasgow to Hamilton/Larkhall and Lanark.
Two trains an hour will run on each route, apart from only one an hour on the Shotts line, with timetables due to be published by Friday.
Services will be limited to between 7:30am and 6:30pm, but ScotRail warned passengers that last trains would depart “well before” then.
ScotRail said services would also be disrupted on the days after the strikes due to signal boxes re-opening at different times.
It said: “While large signalling centres in the Central Belt will be able to operate from 7:15am, this will not be the case at signal boxes elsewhere and it may well be later in the day before many routes are able to operate as normal.”
Meantime, ScotRail’s full timetable may not now be restored until around July 21 after train drivers’ union Aslef on Wednesday ordered that an improved 5 per cent pay offer be put to members in a ballot.
The union is recommending approval, but said the result would not be known until July 11.
ScotRail has said it would take up to ten days after resolution of the dispute to fully restore services, which have been cut by as much as half on Sundays.
Service delivery director David Simpson said: “It is very unfortunate to see such widespread disruption across the whole of the Great Britain rail network and we know this will be frustrating for ScotRail customers.
“Regrettably, this strike action by RMT members of Network Rail means we will not be able to operate the vast majority of our services during the period of strike action.
"Customers should expect significant disruption to services next week, including on the days between strike action.
“On the five routes where we are able to operate a very limited service on strike days, we’re advising customers to seek alternative means of transport and to only travel if they really need to.”
Liam Sumpter, Network Rail Scotland route director, said: “We understand the disruption this strike will cause and apologise to passengers for the impact on their journeys.
“We are continuing talks with our trade unions to seek a compromise that would avoid this damaging strike action.
“Our industry has been deeply affected by the pandemic, with passenger numbers still at only 75 per cent of pre-Covid levels.
"We must modernise to put our railway on a sound financial footing for the future and reduce the burden on taxpayers.”
Network Rail said only about 4,500 passenger services were expected to operate across Britain during the strikes compared with 20,000 normally.
Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said: "The Tory Government needs to show some leadership and ensure there are meaningful talks between employers and unions to make a fair and sensible pay offer.
"They must also address the cuts to safety and maintenance staff which are also driving this dispute.
“Rather than fix the mess they have created, desperate Tory ministers are spoiling for a fight to distract from their chaotic and discredited Government.”