A RAIL union has threatened strike action after claiming that ScotRail is putting passengers and staff at risk by cutting its health and safety department.

All administrative, clerical, supervisory and managerial staff across Scotland,  including its Glasgow headquarters were asked to consider voluntary redundancy, a matter of weeks after Abellio ScotRail announced a loss of £3.5m in its first full year operating train services in Scotland.

Now transport staff union TSSA has warned that a "strike threat looms" saying that railway stations in Scotland had been left without a health and safety department.

TSSA say the stations’ health and safety manager took voluntary severance whilst the remaining two members of his department have been told to find other jobs within the company.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes who has already asked transport minister Humza Yousaf  to stop the voluntary redundancies said: “It is incredible that at a time of heightened terrorist threat Abellio has done away with the department that looks after the health and safety of their stations.  ScotRail are sleepwalking into a potential safety nightmare."

He says that Mr Yousaf had previously dismissed their concerns over the redundancies calling them "only backroom staff".

The Herald:

Mr Cortes added: "Now his laissez-faire attitude has put ScotRail passengers and staff at risk.  I hope he’ll be man enough to admit he was wrong and intervene with ScotRail to put it right. 

“TSSA will not be just “letting things happen” and we won’t be ruling anything out – up to and including strike action.”

An email sent to staff by John Gillies, director of human resources,  in November announced the Voluntary Leavers Scheme while proclaiming that the company was "well on our way to building the best railway Scotland's ever had".

ScotRail, which at the time refused to say how many staff they want to leave, stressed there would be no enforced redundancies, as per the terms of its franchise.

Tough trading conditions and a partial closure of Glasgow Queen Street station were blamed for a 2016 loss of £2.7 million, which came after it emerged in its first nine months as ScotRail franchise operator in 2015, the subsidiary of state-owned Dutch Railways made profits of almost £10m.

It highlighted investment of £475m in the railways, the introduction of a new fleet of Hitachi-built electric class 385 trains and the "extensive" refurbishment of high-speed trains to serve Scotland's cities from 2018.

Mr Gillies highlighted those developments in his call for voluntary redundancies saying: "We are on the cusp of a big transformation for our business."

Scotrail did not refute TSSA's comments but said it had plans to expand its health and safety team to provide support for the stations.  It did not put a timescale on this.

A Scotrail spokesman said: We are currently in consultation with the TSSA, who raised a question regarding this proposed change earlier today.

“The safety of our customer and staff remains our foremost priority.

“The changes we plan to make will ensure that Scotland’s railway remains one of Europe’s safest.”

Abellio, the state-backed Dutch rail company, has been running the Scottish train network since winning the franchise from FirstGroup in April 2015.

Meanwhile, Mr Yousaf said the government is listening to union concerns about the new fleet of electric trains.

The Herald:

Aslef said drivers had reported a windscreen design flaw causing them to see more than one signal at night.

The transport minister said it was "imperative for the train manufacturer, Hitachi, and ScotRail to find a solution."

And he admitted he was unable to say "absolutely" whether the trains would go into service in March, as planned.