ScotRail strike ballot triggered by row over downgrading of staff

ScotRail plans to downgrade conductors on a new electric train flee. Picture: John Devlin
ScotRail plans to downgrade conductors on a new electric train flee. Picture: John Devlin
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A strike ballot has been called at ScotRail over plans to downgrade conductors on a new electric train fleet, The Scotsman has learned.

Hundreds of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will take part after officials failed to get the “necessary assurances” that the proposals would not go ahead.

The dispute has been triggered by plans for drivers to take over the safety role of opening and closing train doors from conductors, who would be left to check tickets.

The proposed changes, which Scotland on Sunday revealed last month, also include lower-paid ticket examiners rep­lacing conductors on some services.

The door-control change, called driver-controlled operation (DCO), would be introduced when a fleet of new trains start running next year.

Routes affected would include Edinburgh-North Berwick, Edinburgh/Glasgow-Dunblane Gl­as­gow-Alloa, and a secondary Edinburgh-Glasgow line via Shotts.

Electric trains around Glasgow have been operated solely by drivers for 30 years, which is known as driver-only operation (DOO). Ticket examiners check fares on such trains.

However, extending it to a new Edinburgh-Glasgow line via Bathgate in 2010 triggered a series of strikes.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The company [ScotRail] were written to in order to seek the necessary assurance that no extension of DOO or DCO would be put in place during the lifetime of the franchise [which ends in 2025].”

He said the union’s leadership “do not feel the necessary assurances have been made and therefore we are now in dispute with ScotRail over their failure to provide the guarantee we asked for.

“I will be preparing to ballot our conductor and conductor instructor members for industrial action.”

ScotRail Alliance managing director Phil Verster said: “We have not formally proposed a DCO solution to the RMT yet. Despite that, the union sees itself as in dispute with us. We continue to talk with the RMT to clarify where they think they are in dispute, and look for a constructive way forward that will not affect our customers.”