ScotRail have announced that more than a quarter of rail services have been cut as part of a temporary timetable due to staff shortages.

It comes amid a pay dispute and the timetable will come into effect on Wednesday. The rail operator says it will provide ‘certainty and reliability’ compared to recent late-notice cancellations that have caused disruption in recent days.

But train drivers’ union Aslef has insisted it is ‘economic vandalism’ in response to the decision.

The temporary timetable involves 1,660 services operating daily from Monday to Saturday, compared with the usual level of around 2,250, a cut of 26%.

READ MORE: Mass disruption to ScotRail services across Scotland

The operator said first and last trains on more than half of all routes would remain the same but services during peak times will revert to an off-peak service.

In a statement, ScotRail said: “This is a result of the ongoing impact of fewer train drivers than normal currently being available for overtime or rest day working, as is their contractual right, following confirmation from drivers’ union Aslef that it will recommend to its executive committee a ballot for industrial action over pay.”

The rail operator said it is recruiting 160 new drivers but “some rest day working and overtime is still needed to deliver a normal timetable”, adding this has “historically been the case in the railway and is replicated in other train operators across Britain”.

Mark Ilderton, ScotRail service delivery director, said: “We are very sorry to customers for the disruption to services.

“We know that customers want certainty and reliability, which is why we are introducing a temporary timetable, in place of late-notice cancellations.

“We are operating services which the vast majority of customers use and are still using all the available trains in our fleet so customers can continue to travel.

“We want to resolve the pay dispute with the trade unions and remain fully committed to further discussions.

“We’re asking customers to check their journey on our website or mobile app, as train times will have changed.”

Kevin Lindsay, Aslef Scottish organiser, said: “Rather than slashing the timetable in an act of economic vandalism that will impact towns and cities across Scotland as well as Scotland’s rail passengers, ScotRail and the Scottish Government must get serious about pay and urgently get back round the negotiating table with a serious and credible offer.

“The Scottish Government is currently taking a fantasy land approach to industrial relations on our railways.

“We met the First Minister John Swinney on May 28 and told him then that the offer being made to our members was completely unacceptable and sadly, ScotRail have parroted this same offer ever since.

“The Scottish Government and ScotRail need to understand quickly that investment in our railways includes investing in its most precious resource, its workers.

“We urge them to come back to us with an offer that is serious and that treats our members with the fairness and respect they deserve.”

ScotRail said planning is ongoing to support travel to major events, including The Open golf tournament in Troon.

Customers booked on services cut from the timetable can claim refunds with no additional administration fee or can use their tickets on an alternative service.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “While train planning and staff rotas are operational matters for ScotRail, we fully expect any timetable to give the best reliability and availability for passengers and that changes are communicated well in advance to enable effective journey planning.

“We acknowledge the desire of rail unions to negotiate a fair settlement for their members.

“ScotRail, as a public body and the employer, has responsibility and the ability to negotiate within the limits of public sector pay metrics.

“However, as rail unions have been made aware, any offer beyond these requires Scottish Government approval at senior level following the appropriate process.

“We would encourage rail unions to continue meaningful dialogue with ScotRail, so that a mutually agreeable outcome can be reached as soon as possible.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesperson Douglas Lumsden called for a full timetable to be restored urgently.

He said: “The reduction in services will have a major impact on people getting to and from work as well as those looking to journey by train during the school summer holidays.

“The SNP cannot hide behind ScotRail and must take responsibility for failing to tackle this situation before it reached this point.

“With major sporting events and music festivals happening imminently, it is imperative that John Swinney and his SNP colleagues get a grip of this dispute, before it deeply damages Scotland’s economy.”