PASSENGERS suffered major disruption yesterday after some 80 ScotRail services were cancelled or altered because of staff shortages.
Nearly one in ten trains due to run were affected because of what The Scotsman understands was unofficial action in a dispute over downgrading train conductors.
ScotRail relies on staff doing voluntary overtime on Sundays because it is not classed as part of the working week.
Some lines, such as between Stirling and Glasgow, were left with no trains until mid-afternoon, with passengers switched to coaches.
There was severe disruptions between Edinburgh and Fife, with other routes badly affected including Edinburgh/Glasgow to Inverness.
Andrew Stephen, chair of the Cumbernauld Commuters Association, said: “Far too many services are being cancelled or started/terminated short due to this feeble ‘train crew’ excuse. What a way to run a railway.”
The action came days before the results of a strike ballot called by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.
This is over proposals sent to staff to downgrade conductors’ roles on a new fleet of trains due to start operating from next year.
Drivers would take charge of train doors, leaving conductors to check tickets. Lower-paid ticket examiners would replace them on some services.
RMT Scottish secretary Mick Hogg blamed the disruption on ScotRail not employing enough staff.
He said: “The Scottish Government is allowing [ScotRail parent firm] Abellio to run a seven-day service that relies on people working overtime.
“There has been no instruction from the union not to work overtime, but people are angry and frustrated at threats to remove staff from trains.”
The Scotsman understands there has been a gradual increase in staff declaring themselves unavailable to work on Sundays.
However, ScotRail has not received official notification of any action. The firm has not put formal proposals to the unions over changes to conductors’ roles, but there have been informal discussions.
ScotRail said the disruption was caused by factors including sickness and holiday cover.
It said some trains made additional stops, and replacement buses had been drafted in.
A spokeswoman said: “As a result of train crew shortages across the network, unfortunately we have had to cancel some train services.
“Where necessary, alternative transport is in place, and we have extra staff at key locations to help our customers get to where they need to be.”