SCOTS ministers met yesterday to discuss contingency plans as nationalised ScotRail services are cut by nearly half on Wednesday - the day after the first of three 24 hour strikes which marks the biggest rail stoppage for a generation.

ScotRail has warned all rail users to check their trains are operating as hundreds are being cancelled across the ScotRail network on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

It is the result of the combined knock-on effects of the Network Rail strikes and the emergency timetable brought in because of a separate train ScotRail drivers' work-to-rule.

The crippling UK-wide three-day strike which began yesterday and is due to continue on Thursday and Saturday, is hitting domestic and cross-border services.

A meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Room (SGoRR) featuring deputy first minister John Swinney, transport secretary Michael Matheson and transport minister Jenny Gilruth was convened yesterday with the possibility of further action to come.

Rail bosses and union negotiators are due to hold fresh talks on Wednesday.

Speaking after chairing the meeting, Mr Swinney said: “With a busy summer upon us, there needs to be more urgency from UK Ministers and the Department for Transport to get this situation fixed – and fast. The lack of action being taken by the UK Government is a dereliction of duty.

“We have had our own issues in Scotland but the difference between our approach and that of the UK Government could not be more stark. We have sought dialogue, compromise and agreement, whereas the UK Government has deliberately inflamed the situation causing misery for the travelling public."

SGoRR has been up and running since Tuesday morning and will be in operation until Sunday evening to monitor impacts and oversee and co-ordinate the response from ministers.

The meeting has heard of extra preparedness around major events such as the Royal Highland Show, freight mitigation plans from major retailers to keep supermarkets stocked as much as possible, and wider resilience plans.

HeraldScotland:

“This afternoon’s meeting was an opportunity to hear from agencies and responders about the plans that are in place, and I am confident that the mitigations we can take are being taken, but we heard of the serious impact it is having on many areas and sectors of Scotland such as tourism, freight and major events," said Mr Swinney.

“I am grateful to the travelling public for their considerable patience and for checking ahead, seeking alternatives, and working flexibly, where possible. Our resilience arrangements will remain in place for the rest of the week, however I am in no doubt that this situation can and should be addressed by the UK Government. The public have suffered enough and our major events organisers need to be able to look and plan ahead with certainty.”

ScotRail said a further 264 services would be cut on days after the strikes – on top of its temporary timetable - brought in by the seperate train drivers' dispute - that has already halted around 700, or one third, of daily services.

ScotRail says the continued disruption with the Network Rail dispute is because on the days following strike action, signal boxes - critical to ensure that the railway can operate safely - will be re-opening at different times throughout the day.

Some 40,000 workers walked out yesterday (Weds) leaving millions of commuters facing severe disruption as around 80% of train services have been cancelled.

Scots stations were left deserted as a result of the first day of the strike, leaving some buses packed and commuter traffic queues on the M8 - caused by a crash.

Boris Johnson said the strikes were "unnecessary aggravation" and prepared the public to be braced for more chaos on the railways as he stressed the need for modernisation and reform in the industry.

He warned commuters they must be ready to "stay the course" and urged rail bosses and unions to agree on a package to safeguard the future of the industry.

HeraldScotland:

Only five ScotRail routes were in service yesterday, the first day of a three-day strike. All are in the central belt of Scotland and the last train was to depart well before 6.30pm.

The strike also hit cross-border services, with around 20% of services running. Services were only operating between 7.30am and 6.30pm each of the strike days.

Many passengers’ journeys took several hours longer than normal, while those who chose to travel by car instead were greeted by a surge in traffic.

Last trains were much earlier than normal, such as London Euston to Glasgow at 1.30pm and London King’s Cross to Edinburgh at 2pm.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been urged by his Scottish counterpart Jenny Gilruth to do more to enable a settlement of the dispute.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, has warned the industrial action could cost the sector up to £540m.

Among those stranded by the stoppage was retired NHS worker Christopher Britton who was at Glasgow's Central Station after finishing a tour of Scotland's islands and has been trying to get back to London. He says he was quoted £1,500 for a taxi.

But the chaos will continue on Wednesday, with only 60% of UK trains running, mainly due to a delay to the start of services as signallers and control room staff are not doing overnight shifts.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will continue their strike on Thursday and Saturday 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, pay and working conditions.

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

ScotRail continued to warn travellers to check their journey times before setting out to see if their train is running. For example, the first service from Dundee to Aberdeen is at 11.18am This compares to a normal timetable of 7:22am.

"While Network Rail’s large signalling centres in the central belt will be able to operate from 07.15, 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. This is particularly the case for routes beyond the Central Belt," said ScotRail, which was nationalised on April 1.

The disruption caused by strike action will impact customers travelling to events such as The Eagles at Murrayfield on Wednesday, the four-day Royal Highland Show which opens tomorrow, Biffy Clyro at Ingliston on Saturday and Liam Gallagher at Hampden Park on Sunday.

ScotRail said it will be issuing specific travel advice for each event.

David Simpson, ScotRail service delivery director, said: “Regrettably, the disruption caused by the RMT Network Rail strike action extends to the days following strike action as well. This is due to Network Rail signal boxes across Scotland’s Railway opening at different times throughout the day.

“This means, for some routes, it may be later in the day before we’re able to operate services as normal.

“I’d encourage anyone planning to travel on the railway on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, to check their journey in advance to see if their train is running, and on days of strike action to only travel if they really need to on the five routes where services are operating.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a meeting of the Cabinet that reforms are vital for the rail industry and passengers and that it would “not give in” to demands from the rail unions.

He said: “I say this to the country as a whole, we need to get ready to stay the course.

“To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the travelling public, they will help to cut costs for farepayers up and down the country.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is considering possible disciplinary action after several of his party’s MPs joined picket lines outside stations.

He reportedly ordered frontbenchers not to do that as the Conservatives have sought to use the row to claim Labour is on the side of striking workers who have caused chaos.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, who has warned that the dispute could continue for months, called for trade unions to "coordinate" future strike action "so that it has the most effect possible".

He was asked if he would support other unions in other sectors going on strike and said: “My advice to unions is to campaign on the issues and ultimately if the Government and the employers do not change their direction I believe more ballots for strike action are inevitable and more action is inevitable.

“What I would say to trade union leaders and trade union activists is we need to coordinate and synchronise our campaigning so that we can rebalance the inequalities in our society.”

Asked what he meant by "synchronise", Mr Lynch said: “Well we need to coordinate the action. So we need mass rallies, we need people on the streets, we need protests in every town and city in Britain and if we have to have industrial action we should coordinate that industrial action so that it has the most effect possible.”