Scotland’s railways – where you never know what’s going to happen next

There’s never a dull day on the railways – and that makes it such a fascinating part of my beat to cover.

I’m continually surprised by sudden and unexpected developments at ScotRail, with disparate events having a habit of snowballing to cause major disruption.

At the beginning of last week, its train drivers surprised many by threatening their first strike in 21 years after rejecting a pay offer.

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Seven days on, and their discontent has led to an unofficial overtime ban which sabotaged Sunday services that rely on such staff working on their “rest days”.

A train derailment in Coatbridge has caused disruption across the Central Belt since Friday night. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Combine that with a rare train derailment, which has had a widespread knock-on effect on some of ScotRail’s busiest routes, and you have hundreds of services cancelled across the country.

But that wasn’t all. The disruption coincided with another major line through Glasgow being closed for engineering work, leaving passengers used to only having to wait a few minutes for the next train being left with just one service an hour.

Then there’s the personal safety issue, raised by the RMT union this week after one train crew member took on a gang of violent yobs single handedly and gave up waiting for the police to arrive.

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ScotRail passengers warned major disruption after train derailment could continu...

It came days before ScotRail launches on Monday one of its biggest ever seat sales to encourage passengers back onto the trains after the pandemic drastically cut the numbers travelling.

My guess is that despite concerns about anti-social behaviour if the fare’s right, people will travel.

Those tempted to try rail again for the first time since the pandemic, or perhaps for years, may be pleasantly surprised by the comfort of ScotRail’s new fleet of electric trains operating across the Central Belt, and its refurbished Inter7City trains between there and Aberdeen and Inverness.

The events of the past week have shown how ScotRail’s post-Covid recovery can be a stop-start affair – and literally be derailed.

But if its half-price seat sale is a roaring success, the operator will have to be equally mindful of not immediately scaring away its new hordes of passengers should it result in unpleasantly overcrowded trains.

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