Key workers and those still using the railways in Scotland will enjoy a small rise in the number of trains on offer from Monday 18 May, provided restrictions around the coronavirus continue to be eased.
Train operating companies (TOCs), including Scotrail, have signed up to a government plan to help the railway industry recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
From Monday, there will be a increase in the number of services across the United Kingdom, subject to the continued relaxation of lockdown restrictions.
Despite a planned increase to around 70 per cent of normal capacity across the rail network, the situation in Scotland is different and will likely see a much smaller increase compared to south of the border.
The exact increase to capacity in Scotland is not clear, but will vary by route and demand.
All TOCs which serve Scotland including Scotrail, LNER, Avanti West Coast, Transpennine Express, Cross Country and the Caledonian Sleeper have signed up to the plan.
Labour MSP, Neil Findlay, criticised the move saying that the messaging for people to stay at home must be clear.
He said: “The Scottish Government message has rightly been for people to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus but it appears that Transport Scotland are asking to increase rail capacity.
“How does this sit with the stay at home message?”
It is understood any phased increase to rail services will only happen if advice from the government and health authorities allow it to take place.
Dialogue between Transport Scotland and stakeholders including TOCs and unions is also ongoing.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said “At this challenging time, our priority is the health and safety of everyone including those who work on and use our railway. We are grateful to all public transport workers who have kept services moving for our key workers.
“Planning continues for a careful, moderate and phased approach to adjusting rail services in Scotland, driven by consideration of the safety of passengers and staff. This would see a small increase in services at busier times for essential journeys and to help facilitate physical distancing.
“This approach is distinct from the large increases being considered south of the border, and remains consistent with the current guidelines from the Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland for essential travel only
“We understand the genuine concerns of many regarding inappropriate or excessive increases in rail services, not only in how this could be interpreted by the public but also in the practicalities given continued advice regards essential travel only.
“We are committed to engagement with key stakeholders on this issue, including the trade unions, to ensure that when the time comes to start this process we do it in the safest manner possible.”
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “When government decides the time is right, the railway will respond to support the nation during the next phase of the coronavirus response, as it has done throughout the lockdown.
“Our priority will continue to be the safety of our staff and passengers and we will work closely with government and unions to run trains safely while supporting the economy and the public’s health.”
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