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Grant Shapps must find ‘political willing’ to end rail dispute – Jenny Gilruth

·5-min read

Grant Shapps has been urged to find the “political willing” to bring an end to the rail dispute causing mass disruption across the network, as bosses at ScotRail warned travellers that services will be impacted until Sunday.

Jenny Gilruth, Scotland’s transport minister, has written to Mr Shapps asking him to “seek a resolution to this dispute, as quickly as possible” as industrial action commenced on Tuesday.

About 40,000 railway workers from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are taking part in strikes over a pay dispute with Network Rail and some Department of Transport rail-operating companies.

Millions of people have been affected by the cancellation of 80% of the UK’s train services. Further action is to be taken on Thursday and Saturday this week.

ScotRail train
Just five ScotRail services are running on Tuesday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scotland has just five ScotRail services running on the days affected: two trains per hour on the Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk High line, the Edinburgh-Bathgate line, the Glasgow to Hamilton/Larkhall line and the Glasgow to Lanark line, and one train an hour on the Edinburgh to Glasgow via Shotts service.

There was a reported spike in traffic congestion on Tuesday as travellers took to the roads instead.

In her letter to the Transport Secretary, Ms Gilruth said the efforts of railway staff during the pandemic should be acknowledged.

“Now is a time to recognise those efforts, not to punish workers,” she wrote, adding that the Scottish Government “will not support any reforms which seek to impose compulsory redundancies”.

Se said: “Network Rail workers in Scotland and across the GB rail network have not received a pay rise in over two years. I am sure you will agree that is not an acceptable or a sustainable position.”

The Mid Fife and Glenrothes MSP also reiterated calls from the Scottish Government for a full devolution of rail powers, before telling Mr Shapps: “A resolution to this dispute is possible, but you will require to inject the political willing which has, thus far, clearly been lacking.”

It came as ScotRail warned disruption will continue until Sunday.

The rail operator said: “While the large signalling centres at Yoker, West of Scotland, and Edinburgh will be able to operate from 0715, this will not be the case at manual boxes elsewhere and it may well be early afternoon before many routes are able to operate as normal.

“This is particularly the case for routes outwith the Central Belt.”

Glasgow Central Station
Glasgow Central Station lies almost deserted on Tuesday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Several concerts taking place in Scotland this week are set to be impacted by both the disruptions and timings of last trains, including Wednesday’s Eagles gig at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh and Liam Gallagher at Hampden Stadium in Glasgow on Sunday.

Biffy Clyro is set to headline at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh on Saturday, Barry Manilow’s concert at the Hydro in Glasgow and Phoebe Bridgers’ Barrowlands gig – both taking place on Thursday – will also be affected.

Just a handful of passengers waited for trains at Glasgow’s Queen Street station and Central Station on Tuesday.

Scott Dallas, 28, from Kirkintilloch, told the PA news agency that getting to Glasgow Queen Street was not too difficult but that later on, he will have to leave his destination early.

He said: “I usually get the train from Lenzie but I went to Croy today so it was not too bad.

“The problem is tonight I will have to leave early because the last train I think is 6pm so I’ll just have to make sure I’m out on time because I’m going to a conference today at Glasgow University.

“It is a bit of a pain but it could be worse.

“If I didn’t have to come to this conference today I probably would’ve stayed at home and worked at home.”

Gav Nsay, 28, from Glasgow, said the strike has disrupted his plans to go by train to Edinburgh with his friend who has not been able to travel in to meet him.

He said: “I was meant to go to Edinburgh with my friend. Unfortunately we’ve not been able to go to Edinburgh because he can’t get the train where he is coming from to Glasgow. That’s going to have a huge effect on us going to Edinburgh.”

Mr Nsay said that if his friend does manage to get into Glasgow they may end up travelling to Edinburgh by bus or taxi.

The Transport Secretary said on Tuesday that laws to allow flexible workers, including agency staff, to cover for those on strike could be introduced within months.

He told LBC radio: “We are going to change the law to ensure there can be much more flexibility, the law which is sometimes referred to as agency is actually more about transferability.

“That sort of modernisation can be achieved, if we can’t get it by agreement with the unions, by changing the law. And we will change the law in rapid order in the next month or two to ensure that transferable skills are allowed.”

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