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Travellers face more rail strikes after talks collapse

A fresh wave of strikes over ScotRail’s plans for a driver-only service with no conductors on the Airdrie – Bathgate line will begin on Monday after talks at conciliation service Acas ended without resolution yesterday.

There was better news, however, for Scotland’s hard-pressed travellers after unions representing cabin crew in the British Airways (BA) dispute said that “serious progress” had been made in discussions with the company.

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On the railways, the RMT union said that more than 550 guards and drivers would take part in the fourth wave of industrial action in protest at the proposals, which it claims will jeopardise passenger safety.

ScotRail said it had given the union written guarantees to allay fears over the role of conductors and described the strike action as unjustified.

Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail, said: “I welcomed the Acas meeting as a step in the right direction – but the only step taken by the union was backwards. Instead of conciliation, there was intransigence.

“The new line will create 130 jobs and further strike action is unjustified, especially at a time when businesses across the UK are announcing posts are being axed or threatened.”

RMT said that guards and drivers would strike from Monday until midnight on Wednesday and sleeper train managers would walk out between 6pm on Tuesday and 6pm on Thursday.

Union officials had previously called for intervention from Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson after it emerged the Government agency Transport Scotland had approved the decision to have drivers operating train doors, with a ticket examiner as the second person on board.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow yesterday called on Alex Salmond to resolve the issue and said that the union would be demonstrating outside the Scottish Parliament next Thursday.

He said: “Our members’ courage and determination to defend rail safety and the role of the guard on ScotRail is second to none and if the company, and Transport Scotland, thought that this issue would quietly fade away then they didn’t reckon with the grit of RMT members.

“Months into this campaign, ScotRail and the Scottish Government still refuse to face up to their responsibilities to the travelling public and their staff and are prepared to slash corners on rail safety in the dash for cuts and the drive for profits.”

ScotRail said that drivers already opened and closed doors on 46% of its trains. It said it had run at least nine out of 10 trains during the previous three one-day strikes and it expects to run more services during next week’s walkouts.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for BA told The Herald that there was no immediate threat of another walkout by cabin crew as talks continue in a bid to resolve the dispute over pay and jobs.

BA said the seven days of strikes held in March had cost the company between £40 million and £45m. The airline carried 11.4% fewer passengers in March year-on-year and the number of premium, or business class, passengers fell by 7.2% on the 2009 figure.

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