Union leaders say an overtime ban has brought “absolute carnage” to Scotland’s railway network after dozens of services were axed on one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Operator ScotRail was forced to apologise to passengers after cancelling dozens of services two months after it was warned that trains would “come to a grinding halt” if it failed to resolve a long-standing dispute.
Routes across the country were affected by “train crew shortages” with more than 40 services alone ditched yesterday. Commuters faced miserable journeys just days after it emerged that ScotRail was planning to hike up its prices by an average of 2.8 per cent from next month.
ScotRail has insisted cancellations were down to the need to train up staff ahead of a new timetable being introduced next weekend.
However, members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of action at the end of September in protest that conductors and other staff are paid less than drivers for working on days off.
It has instructed its 3,500 members not to volunteer for overtime or work on “rest days” until further notice.
Services to and from Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street were among the worst affected over the weekend. However, there were also cancellations on the Inverness-Kyle of Lochalsh route.
Rail services were much busier than normal due to Christmas shoppers heading into Edinburgh and Glasgow city centres. Thousands of football fans travelling to the Hearts-Rangers fixture in Edinburgh and the Celtic-Aberdeen Scottish League Cup Final in Glasgow were also affected.
Passengers were alerted about cancellations yesterday in a tweet which stated: “Due to train crew shortages some services will be cancelled or altered today. We are sorry for any disruption.”
Train conductors and other RMT members are paid between £112 and £140 for working their rest days compared to £300 for drivers.
Mick Hogg, regional organiser at the RMT, said there was “no question” that the industrial action had caused the weekend disruption, adding: “It’s absolute carnage out there.”
The RMT has previously claimed that ScotRail was already short of conductors, ticket examiners, station and ticket office staff, cleaners and engineers. ScotRail has blamed the late arrival of new electric trains for the rush to get drivers and conductors familiarised. They will take over full running of the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line from 9 December.
A spokesman for ScotRail said:” We’re sorry to our customers who have experienced disruption to their journey. The majority of the impact is a result of our final push to deliver the timetable improvements which will bring faster journeys, more seats, and more services for customers.”
Last week it emerged that ScotRail would be increasing the cost of season tickets and anytime day by 3.2 per cent, with off-peak tickets going up by 2.2 per cent.