AS someone who has spent a large part of their working life in the railway industry, I found your report of the threat of a rail strike in Scotland this summer to be thought-provoking ("Scotland faces biggest rail strike in modern history this summer", The Herald, April 21).

I would counsel the rail union leaders, particularly those who represent Scottish members, to think very carefully about proceeding with strike action in the present economic climate.

History reminds us of the outcome of the 1955 and 1982 UK railway strikes, where freight traffic was lost to the railways never to return and on several lines passenger confidence and usage was reduced after normal services were resumed, which eventually led to closure.

The majority of the passenger railway network in Scotland is best classified as a “social railway” and has been so for several decades. Many routes have expensive infrastructure costs and ScotRail Trains Limited has the added challenge of an ageing fleet that will require replacement in the next six years. Any industrial action in Scotland is very likely to jeopardise future Scottish Government investment in the railways.

Rail freight has been fully privatised in Scotland since 1994 and north of the Central Belt there are currently few regular traffic flows and some are fragile in terms of operating margins, so any threat to their reliable operation could lead to cancellation of contracts and loss of business to rail.

The rail unions need to move forward and accept expansion of driver-only operation with the guard/conductor focusing on revenue collection and customer support activities. Where infrastructure maintenance is concerned there are several areas where Network Rail could increase productivity and reduce costs: two examples are overhead line equipment maintenance and inspection and track maintenance. However, the unions need to support Network Rail in its efforts to introduce new technologies and working practices.

The very real consequences of any rail strike in Scotland are passenger service reductions with consequential fare rises and suspension of services on some routes. A route such as Girvan to Stranraer is very finely balanced due to the operating deficit, similarly the line north of Tain to Thurso and Wick. In the future the Holyrood treasury may not be so generous with its funding provision to Transport Scotland for railways. Planned freight expansion would also be adversely affected.

Take care rail unions.

Kevin A McCallum, Glasgow.


WHEN I first wrote to The Herald concerning the problems on the Arran ferry service and some of the implications of the new vessel then (and still) being built at Ferguson Marine in December 2016, it was still possible to describe the problems of the Arran ferry in a 200-word letter. Today, a full-page article would only scratch the surface, such has been the deterioration in the service over the past few years.

In this week's Holyrood debate on ferries quotes SNP Business Minister Ivan McKee said: "I have made it very clear this Government is committed to expanding the fleet, providing new vessels as quickly as we can and that's significant investment of £580 million."

Various panjandrums from the CalMac/CMAL nexus have claimed over the past few years to have been searching the world for second-hand vessels without success. There is nothing suitable apparently.

The current travails of the MV Caledonian Isles, widely reported in The Herald and other media, have brought what was a serious problem to crisis point.

Yet there is currently available to buy a ferry which has already been proven suitable for several of CMAL's harbours, including Ardrossan and Brodick, and there is no need to leave Scotland to find it. MV Pentalina is in Orkney and is available to buy for around £7 million, a drop in the ocean compared with what has already been wasted in Port Glasgow.

Government ministers should be telling CMAL to ditch its antipathy to catamarans and ameliorate the current woeful state of the West Coast fleet by securing the Pentalina asap to bring it some much-needed resilience.

Sandy MacAlister, Shiskine, Isle of Arran.


HAVING recently bought a hybrid car, the comments of J Morrison (Letters, April 21) on towing prompted me to consult the voluminous, and in parts to me impenetrable, manual which came with the car. Its succinct and sensible instruction is “Call a professional towing service if you need to tow the car". It adds, obviously because the car is front-wheel drive, an acceptable way of actually towing it is possible if you can somehow lift the front tyres off the ground, leaving the rear ones on the ground. Presumably that is how the towing service truck pulls the car on to it. As it appears that an EV cannot be towed at all, the towing service truck will have to be equipped to lift the car bodily on to it.

The other side of this coin is towing rather than being towed, and in my hybrid case the stark instruction is “Your vehicle is not designed to tow a trailer. Attempting to do so can void your warranties". Does this apply equally to EVs? Definitely an example of caveat emptor.

Alan Fitzpatrick, Dunlop.


WIND farms are not "green". Wind machines (they are not turbines in the engineering sense of the word) require gallons and gallons of gearbox oil, plus hydraulic oil. Both oils have to be changed roughly every 12 months and flushing oil may need to be used.

Wind machines need fossil fuel in their manufacturing and construction, requiring coal to make steel for the towers and oil to make the rotor blades. Rare earths are also used in direct drive-wind machines, including dysprosium, neodymium, and praseodymium.

China supplies 85 per cent of the world's rare earths. Recently Sky News reported on Chinese rare earth production. The film makers, despite being followed constantly and harassed by state authorities, managed to film the pollution caused by their extraction, including severe water pollution of domestic supplies which resulted in the inhabitants of one village being forcibly moved away as 40% of them had contracted cancer from the drinking water.

William Loneskie, Lauder.


GOBBLEDEGOOK may be defined as language rendered meaningless by excessive use of technical terms.

In your Sport section today, I read that NFTs are cryptographic assets on a block chain with unique identification codes and metadata ("SPFL and Rangers at NFT impasse", Herald Sport, April 21).

Thoughts of the song Let Me Out.

David Miller, Milngavie.