RMT rail strikes: Some ScotRail, LNER and other cross-Border trains likely to run

Limited ScotRail services in the Central Belt and some cross-Border trains are expected to run if three days of rail strikes go ahead late this month, industry sources have told The Scotsman.
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However, most other ScotRail trains elsewhere in Scotland are likely to be halted by the planned Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) stoppages on Tuesday, June 21, Thursday, June 23 and Saturday, June 25.

The dispute over pay and feared job cuts involves 40,000 staff at 13 train operators, including five of the six cross-Border firms such as LNER, and UK Government-owned infrastructure owner Network Rail, which employs signallers and track maintenance staff.

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Transport minister Jenny Gilruth told MSPs on Wednesday she was “appalled” that Network Rail staff had not had a pay rise for two years and said she would not support any redundancies.

LNER said it expected to run an "amended" timetable if the strikes went ahead. Picture: Crest PhotographyLNER said it expected to run an "amended" timetable if the strikes went ahead. Picture: Crest Photography
LNER said it expected to run an "amended" timetable if the strikes went ahead. Picture: Crest Photography

Workers at ScotRail and cross-Border operator Caledonian Sleeper have not been called out as they are not part of the dispute, but the firms said their services would be affected by the signallers taking part.

Network Rail is making contingency plans for specially-trained managers to take over from striking staff at its centralised signalling centres, such as in Glasgow and Edinburgh, which would enable some trains to run in and around the two cities and across the Border.

An industry source said: “It’s too early to say with certainty what will run, but the Central Belt and cross-Border routes are the most centralised and have the most modern signalling systems, so are more likely to be able to be resourced to provide a limited service.”

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Ms Gilruth has said a strike by Network Rail operations staff “would result in a limited amount of timetabled services being able to operate, with the vast majority in west central Scotland”.

ScotRail said the impact on its services was likely to be “significant”, leaving it able to operate “only a very limited number of services”.

Operators have told passengers with tickets they can change their travel date or request a refund, while some have suspended ticket sales on the strike days.

Some have said those with tickets for travel between June 20-26 could use travel anytime up to June 20 instead.

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London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which operates between Scotland and London via the east coast main line, said it would be running an “amended timetable” that was still being drawn up.

LNER has yet to confirm whether this would include services over the whole of its core route between Edinburgh and London.

It said: “We'll be running fewer trains and the trains that are running are likely to be busier.

"The days either side of industrial action are also likely to be busy.”

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Avanti West Coast, which runs between Glasgow, Edinburgh and London via the west coast main line, said: “We will announce a revised timetable as soon as possible.”

It said services were likely to be “reduced significantly” on the strike days and be very busy, with those on days either side of the stoppages also likely to be affected.

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CrossCountry, which operates between Scotland, the Midlands and southern England, said it expected to run a “significantly reduced service” if the strikes went ahead, with adjacent days also affected.

It said: “We are finalising details of what level of service we will be able to offer over this period and will publish details on our website.”

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TransPennine Express (TPE), whose trains connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with the north of England, urged passengers to avoid its services on the strike dates.

Customer experience director Kathryn O’Brien said: “We are now working to determine what level of service we will be able to provide.

“Our customers should be aware, however, that any amended timetable is likely to represent a significant reduction in services across TPE’s entire network.”

Caledonian Sleeper said it did not yet know how its services would be affected.

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It said: "We are working hard to minimise disruption where possible and will make announcements as soon as is practicably possible, in order to give our guests the certainty they require.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1pc and rising."

But Steve Montgomery, chair of the industry-wide body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We urge the RMT’s leadership to call off needless and damaging strikes and continue to work with us to ensure a fair deal for our people and for the taxpayer while securing the long-term future of the railways.”

Meantime, Ms Gilruth told MSPs: “Rail users right across the UK will be facing serious disruption that is not of this Government’s making.”

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She said she had written to Network Rail to express the Scottish Government's concerns over any proposals for redundancies, “which we would not support”.

Ms Gilruth added: “I am appalled that Network Rail employees have had no pay rise for the last two years.

"It is not acceptable and nor does it make any economic sense for the Network Rail dispute to continue to that end.

"We can only conclude this is being done for political or ideological purposes.”

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The minister told UK transport secretary Grant Shapps in April it was “hugely disappointing” the UK Government was not doing more to resolve the dispute.

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said: “As if train passengers in Scotland weren’t suffering enough with the woefully-inadequate reduced ScotRail timetable, they now face the threat of further disruption courtesy of the RMT.

“The RMT should row back from threatening strike action, which will only inconvenience the public, and get back around the negotiating table.”