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Jenny Gilruth: ScotRail service cuts are the ‘opposite of chaos’

ScotRail has announced service cuts because of driver shortages (Jane Barlow/PA)
ScotRail has announced service cuts because of driver shortages (Jane Barlow/PA)

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said rail service cuts were “the opposite of chaos” after she met train operators on Friday.

Ms Gilruth met ScotRail amid an ongoing dispute between the operator and the Aslef union whose members are refusing to make themselves available for overtime because of a pay dispute.

Drivers refused a 2.2% pay increase from ScotRail and will not be working overtime on rest days.

Ms Gilruth said ScotRail had relied on drivers working extra hours to keep trains running but rejected claims railways would face a chaotic summer.

Jenny Gilruth
Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth met ScotRail bosses on Friday (Jane Barlow/PA)

Speaking to STV News, Ms Gilruth said: “It is not going to be a summer of chaos. I would not describe it as that.”

On Wednesday, ScotRail announced plans to cut 700 services as of Monday May 23 due to driver shortages as a result of the overtime ban.

The operator has brought in a temporary timetable which Ms Gilruth said offered certainty and told STV News it was “the opposite of chaos”.

Ms Gilruth added: “Actually, the reduced service is deemed necessary by Scotrail, we need to remember, to give passengers certainty.

“So, it’s the opposite of chaos, arguably, because it’s certainty in the next few weeks about where and when they can travel by rail, but it’s not where we should be in terms of provision. I accept that.

“I’m absolutely committed to working with ScotRail and our trade union partners to get to a better place but that requires both ScotRail and the trade unions to work together.”

In a statement from Ms Gilruth on Friday evening, she said the temporary cancellations were disruptive, but necessary due to the driver shortage.

She said: “I have been absolutely clear that the temporary cancellations, which have been made necessary by a pay dispute and the impact of Covid on driver training, are disruptive.

“They impact on staff, on passengers and on businesses – impacts which I have reiterated in today’s meeting with ScotRail.”

She warned that other ballots for industrial action could impede efforts to reintroduce services, adding: “The need for a review of the revised timetable was the central focus of the meeting and there was a collective recognition of the importance that this happens quickly.

“However, it is also clear that the potential outcome of other ballots for industrial action, including in areas beyond our control, could impede any efforts to reintroduce services.

“That is why ScotRail will be taking a considered approach to increasing services but will make every effort to action them at the earliest sustainable opportunity.

Work is also under way to recruit drivers and Ms Gilruth said reliance on rest-day working must stop.

She added: “We fully understand that unions’ job is to represent their members and get a fair pay deal for them. But all parties must get back round the table and negotiate for that in good faith – this is what the travelling public wants.”

Earlier on Friday, Aslef’s Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay said: “The public need honesty and action, not political game playing.

“From day one Aslef has been 100% committed to negotiations.

“The reality is we’ve been waiting on more talks since our five-minute meet on May 4. Since then, we have only heard from them through the media.

“We have had no correspondence and no offer in writing at any time. We’ve not had the details of the 2.2% offer, or the proposed bonus scheme, in writing from them.

“It is high time ministers stopped the spin and instructed ScotRail to withdraw their attempt to butcher the timetable, which is more about the purse than the passengers, and to get back round the table for immediate, meaningful talks on pay.

“We remain available any time, any place, anywhere to save Scotland’s railways from these politically motivated service cuts.”