SCOTS have been warned of travel chaos over several days on the railways next week due to a strike which will cripple services across the country.

Only five routes will remain in services during the strike, all are in the central belt of Scotland and the last train will depart well before 6.30pm.

The strike will also hit cross-border services. Only around 20% of services will run.

Services will only operate on five routes between 7.30am and 6.30pm each of the strike days.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) are due to strike on 21st, 23rd and 25th June, in an ongoing UK-wide dispute with Network Rail -which owns the UK's rail tracks, stations and signals – over plans to axe hundreds of critical maintenance jobs.

It's the biggest outbreak of industrial action in the industry in a generation.

Talks aimed at averting the crippling strikes are continuing but with little hope of a last-minute deal to avert industrial action which will lead to travel chaos next week.

It comes as an emergency timetable which has cut services by up to half due to staff shortages remains in place across the ScotRail network in a separate dispute over pay with the train drivers union Aslef.  A pay offer is due to be put to drivers imminently.

The strike involving Network Rail workers means a "very limited number of services" will operate on just five ScotRail routes in the Central Belt, with no service on all other routes.

And nationalised ScotRail has said on those services that are operating, customers should only travel if they really need to and should consider alternative options where possible.

The union says Network Rail is planning to cut at least 2,500 safety critical maintenance jobs as part of a £2 billion reduction in spending, including hundreds north of the Border.

Meanwhile, workers have been subject to pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.

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The RMT union in Scotland has warned that the Network Rail strike would not just hit cross-border services but also the running of operations across the country including Scotrail and Caledonian Sleeper services.

ScotRail, which was nationalised on April 1,  said: "This dispute does not involve ScotRail staff, however it will have a major knock-on effect on the train operator’s ability to provide services as the RMT planned action will involve Network Rail staff in Scotland.

"Many of the Network Rail staff that are due to take part in the planned industrial action occupy safety-critical roles [such as signallers] and, as such, it will not be possible for ScotRail to run the vast majority of services.

The services running at two trains per hour are Edinburgh – Glasgow via Falkirk High; Edinburgh – Bathgate; Glasgow – Hamilton/Larkhall and Glasgow – Lanark.

The service between Edinburgh to Glasgow via Shotts will run at one train per hour.

ScotRail says there will be further disruption on the days following each day of action, on June 22, 25 and 26. It is not clear yet what the extent of that will be.

It will be caused by the reopening of signal boxes at different times across the country. State-run ScotRail said that signal boxes are key pieces of infrastructure located across the rail network that control train movements, and are critical to ensure that the railway can operate safely.

The train operator said that large signalling centres in the central belt will be able to operate from 7.15am this will not be the case at signal boxes elsewhere and it may well be later in the day before many routes are able to operate as normal.

David Simpson, ScotRail service delivery director, said: “It is very unfortunate to see such widespread disruption across the whole of the Great Britain rail network and we know this will be frustrating for ScotRail customers.

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“Regrettably, this strike action by RMT members of Network Rail means that we will not be able to operate the vast majority of our services during the period of strike action. Customers should expect significant disruption to services next week, including on the days between strike action.

“On the five routes where we are able to operate a very limited service on strike days, we’re advising customers to seek alternative means of transport and to only travel if they really need to.”

The RMT said it will be the biggest strike on the railways since 1989.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said he would like to find another way to get what they want other than strike.

He said: "We don't want to cause misery."

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “Talks have not progressed as far as I had hoped and so we must prepare for a needless national rail strike and the damaging impact it will have.

“We, and our train operating colleagues, are gearing up to run the best service we can for passengers and freight users next week despite the actions of the RMT.

“We will keep talking to try and find a compromise that could avert this hugely damaging strike but make no mistake, the level of service we will be able to offer will be significantly compromised and passengers need to take that into account and to plan ahead and only travel if it’s really necessary to do so.”

Network Rail has made a 2.5% pay offer to the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), which is balloting its members in Network Rail for strikes, but discussions are continuing with the RMT.

Mr Haines said Network Rail was looking to cut between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs, insisting it could be achieved through voluntary means, particularly that a “significant” number of employees were over the age of 60.

Network Rail wanted to introduce changes to working practices linked to technologies such as using drones to check tracks and infrastructure, which the company says would be safer than having workers on the tracks, as well as more cost effective.

“There is a history of resistance to change due to technology, but we cannot hold back the tide,” said Mr Haines.

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He cited a move by Network Rail to introduce an App to communicate with staff across the country which he said took a year to seek union agreement.

The railways were facing a “fundamental financial deficit”, with fewer passengers travelling as a result of the pandemic, especially on Fridays, although numbers have improved for weekend leisure travel, said Network Rail.

Meanwhile the RMT has called for talks with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

General secretary Mick Lynch said in a letter that the Treasury was “calling the shots” and not allowing rail employers to reach a negotiated settlement.

“In effect, in recent weeks, the union has been negotiating with the Government but the Government have not been in the room,” he wrote.

Mr Haines denied the RMT’s claim, saying the Treasury had set a financial framework, but Network Rail was leading talks on productivity it believes is needed for pay rises.

More details of next week’s special timetable will be available from Friday, just a few days before the first walkout is due to take place.

 

Network Rail has published a selection of the last trains to and from some cities across the country:
London – Edinburgh: 14.00
London – Leeds: 15.05
London – Newcastle: 15.43
London – Birmingham: 15.40
London – Manchester: 14.56
London – Liverpool: 15.31
London – Sheffield: 15.31
London – Nottingham: 16.09
London – Bristol: 16.33
London – Brighton: 17.50
London – Norwich: 16.30
London – Southampton: 17.00
Edinburgh – London: 13.30
Leeds – London: 15.45
Newcastle – London: 14.59
Birmingham – London: 15.50
Manchester – London: 14.47
Liverpool – London: 15.47
Sheffield – London: 16.00
Nottingham – London: 16.12
Bristol – London: 16.30
Brighton – London: 17.29
Norwich – London: 16.00
Southampton – London: 16.59