Rail strikes: Why it's right to worry about the fallout from industrial action in Scotland

It is hard not to look upon the rail strikes that will plague Scotland in earnest from today with weary resignation – and concern about what the fallout may yet be.

Just five key routes will run today, Thursday and Saturday between 7:30am and 6:30pm on the ScotRail network as most services are cancelled due to national industrial action.

The strikes are linked to a breakdown in talks with the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union over issues surrounding pay and threatened redundancies, rather than involving ScotRail workers directly.

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But with signallers among those staff who are part of the walkout, the ScotRail network has been unable to avoid the impact, prompting a warning to passengers only to travel “if they really need to”.

Members of the public travel through Queen Street station ahead of a planned three-day strike in Glasgow. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Network Rail, along with 13 train operators based south of the Border, are also being hit by the strike action.

As a semi-regular commuter from Fife into Edinburgh by train, I have noticed the volume of those making rail trips on weekdays steadily increase over the past two months as the country emerges from Covid restrictions.

But I worry these strikes will again shake confidence in a rail network that is already battling to return to anywhere near pre-pandemic numbers.

Only last week, we reported that passenger numbers using Scotland's rail network were still only at 75 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

Pic lisa ferguson 14/11/2017 Dale Miller

And with legitimate concerns over reliability and the affordability of train fares amid a cost-of-living crisis, combined with the reduced ScotRail timetable that is in place, these strikes only offer another incentive for people to consider forgoing the train.

There are many people and businesses who rely on a healthy, vibrant rail network.And at a time when we should be giving people more reason to use mass transit for the benefit of the planet, there is an onus on all stakeholders – led by both the UK and Scottish governments – to keep the country running.

It’s the right time to put politics aside and make sure this week’s strikes are not repeated.

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