A tentative schedule that will result in the cut of nearly a third of ScotRail’s services as drivers prepare for industrial action that could last weeks or months.
Additional driver training to ease pressure on existing staff is expected in the fall and last year, meaning passengers may experience longer disruptions.
Nicola Sturgeon apologized on Thursday for the impact of the controversy, which comes just seven weeks after the Scottish government nationalized Scotland.
The new schedule will come on Monday amid an ongoing wage dispute with the Asleaf Train Drivers’ Union over drivers refusing to work overtime or rest days.
As a result, some 694 services will be indefinitely disrupted on weekdays, with the last trains leaving hours earlier than usual on many major routes.
Asleaf organiser Kevin Lindsay said both Scotland and the Scottish government had so far handled the dispute in a “horrendous” manner and demanded that talks resume immediately.
“Relying on drivers for the rest of the day is not the way to run a 21st century railway,” he said.
David Simpson, Scotland’s director of service delivery, said the interim program would remain in effect until progress was made in talks with Asleaf.
Asked whether the hiatus could go on for weeks or potentially months, he told the BBC: “I expect it to be shorter… Will do everything possible to keep it small.”
But Transport Scotland said it would not have a “full complement” of qualified drivers until October, eliminating the need for any staff member to work a day off.
“In the meantime, it is critical that disruption is effectively handled with the greatest possible certainty for the traveling audience,” a spokesperson said.
Asked about the disruption during the prime minister’s questions, Sturgeon said he apologized to those who had a “right to expect” better train service.
He said the tentative schedule would be formally revised on June 3 and he hoped his service to passengers would return to “normalcy as soon as possible.”
When conservative MSP Graham Simpson suggested it could take until 2024 for Scotland to train an additional 130 drivers, Ms Sturgeon said it was wrong.
But he said only 55 new drivers are expected to be trained by the end of the year, while the rest will not be able to enter service until 2023.
Ministers were warned that a widespread Scotland dispute could put at risk thousands of small businesses that rely on customers’ ability to bring trains home in the evening.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said that the country’s fragile economic recovery from Kovid could be made more difficult if the disruption continues.
The Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) and the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) have also issued similar warnings, urging ministers to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.
The NTIA said Scotland’s “disastrous” schedule cuts would force commuters to stay in towns and cities and take the first trains home instead of spending money locally.
He also pointed out that nightclubs and late night music venues will also suffer as people will not be able to ensure that they can go home after the night out.
“These cuts in services, even temporarily, are another blow to Scotland’s nocturnal economy and cultural sector, which has yet to recover from the pandemic,” a spokesman said.
“With these distressed industries facing an extremely difficult start to 2022, the news presents significant concerns for both the economic and employment impact, and, of course, for the safety of customers and employees who stay safe at home at night. return. ,
“The Scottish Government must resolve this dispute urgently or it will jeopardize Scotland’s economic recovery and the future of many thousands of small businesses and jobs.”
SCC Chief Executive Dr Liz Cameron said the companies hope that the acquisition of Scotland in public ownership will mean that schedules can be adapted to make it easier for people to travel.
“Unfortunately, within a few weeks of the start of the new publicly owned franchise operation, the opposite is happening,” he said.
“The Scottish Government urgently needs to underscore the economic impact of these cuts on businesses, employees and customers.”
Meanwhile, SRC director David Lonsdale said any permanent reduction in public transportation options is “unlikely to help” struggling retailers increase the number of visitors.
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