TENSIONS in the ScotRail dispute further increased today after an internal memo said removing conductors from trains and switching door control to drivers would mean “fewer cancellations and greater resilience to industrial action”.
The revelation came as tens of thousands of passengers were disrupted in the first of seven strikes called by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).
More than one in four services were cancelled, with no trains running on 11 lines, including to North Berwick, Stranraer, Mallaig, Wick and Kyle of Lochalsh.
Many other routes operated with less frequent trains than normal, running only from 7am-7pm.
Services on most routes in and around Glasgow were unaffected, including on the line to Edinburgh via Bathgate.
A further 24-hour walkout is planned for Thursday, when a similar number of trains are expected to operate.
However, fewer may run if more strikes go ahead on Saturday and Sunday, especially on Sunday, when ScotRail relies on staff working overtime and unofficial action has caused large numbers of cancellations in recent weeks.
The dispute is over plans to downgrade conductors’ roles on a new fleet of trains due to start running on lines across the Central Belt from autumn next year.
Drivers would take over control of doors, with conductors left to check tickets, but that role would be taken over by lower-paid ticket examiners on some services.
The two sides have already clashed over claims each other won’t take part in further peace talks.
Now the RMT has reacted angrily to the apparently unintentional release of three ScotRail memos about the dispute.
General secretary Mick Cash said: “These documents, issued in error by the company, expose a hidden agenda of union busting, job cuts and attacks on safety that RMT always said was at the heart of this dispute.”
One of them sets out the benefits of “driver controlled operation” (DCO), where the driver operates the doors and is responsible for the safety of the train, with a second staff member checking tickets and carrying out “safety and customer service duties”.
This system is used on more than half of ScotRail trains, which carry nearly six in ten of its passengers.
The memo said advantages included “fewer cancellations and greater resilience to industrial action, as a wider pool of staff can perform the duties of the second member of staff diagrammed to each service”.
It said this was because it was easier to deploy ticket examiners, especially at short notice.
The document also said trains would be more punctual, since those with drivers in control spent up to 15 seconds less at station stops.
It also stated the move would save money, which was “critical to maximising economic benefit from Scottish Government investment”.
A ScotRail spokesman said: “Last night, one of a series of internal discussion documents which looked at all the ideas as to how we might modernise and improve our service to our customers was made available to our staff in error.
“It was swiftly withdrawn and an explanation sent to our people about the error, and to make clear that this was in no way a formal proposal.”
However, Mr Cash said: “The workforce has said all along that any extension of DOO [driver-only operation] or DCO is a clear attack on our members’ hard-earned terms and conditions, and that RMT members should not have to face the risk of their role and responsibilities being reduced and undermined. “