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Union leaders: Train strike will turn Edinburgh into ghost town during festival

© Katielee Arrowsmith / SWNSThe Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Rail leaders have warned that the world’s largest arts festival could be devastated and the Scottish capital left like a “ghost town” if rail strikes go ahead this summer.

RMT Scotland organiser Mick Hogg said industrial action shutting down the rail service will take place during the Edinburgh Festival, which is worth £1 billion to the city’s economy.

The RMT union intends to ballot members in Scotland for strike action, following what it describes as a “derisory” 2.2% pay offer by ScotRail and proposed timetable changes which it branded a “kick in the teeth” to workers.

Industrial action could begin in July and RMT will target the month-long festival in August. Nearly 1.2 million people attended the festival in 2019, with two-thirds coming from outside the city.

A separate ballot of 40,000 RMT members across Britain is due to close on Tuesday. It includes staff on Network Rail and 15 train operating companies, with the RMT saying the action is being taken over pay, compulsory redundancies and safety concerns.

Meanwhile, transport and travel union TSSA has warned of a “summer of discontent” with similar action on the way unless pay disputes are resolved.

RMT Scotland organiser Mick Hogg said: “We would deliberately target the Edinburgh Festival because that’s where the impact is going be.

“The festival is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the economy and attracts tourist from all over the world.

“To lose out on that would have a massive detrimental impact on the Scottish economy. With no trains running Edinburgh would be a ghost town.

“Out the window would be the Scottish Government’s green credentials because people would be forced into their cars, into using taxis and buses.”

ScotRail, which was nationalised last month, announced on Wednesday plans to temporarily cut services by a third due to staffing shortages.

Passenger numbers are also a third below pre-Covid pandemic levels.