ScotRail cuts: Transport minister Jenny Gilruth says 700 train service cut will 'absolutely not' last until 2023

Scotland’s transport minister has said she does not want problems with train services “to go on for a minute longer” and has denied cuts will last until summer 2023.

Jenny Gilruth said Scotland would “absolutely not” see a reduced train timetable operate until the summer of 2023 despite concerns over driver shortages.

Ms Gilruth is to meet ScotRail bosses on Friday to look into the significant train service cuts amid an ongoing pay dispute with rail union Aslef.

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From Monday onwards, almost 700 train services will be cut across Scotland under what the Scottish Government has called “temporary timetabling”.

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth

Train drivers recently turned down a 2.2 per cent pay offer and have subsequently refused to undertake overtime or rest day working.

After ScotRail came into public ownership seven weeks ago, Ms Gilruth said she wanted to work with unions to “ultimately make public ownership a success”.

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Speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Scotland (GMS), Ms Gilruth said: “It’s absolutely right that ScotRail as the employer negotiate with Aslef in the room, so that we can get to that mutually agreed outcome and we can remove this temporary timetable that’s had to be brought in.

"This timetable is temporary and I don’t want it to go on a minute longer."

The minister said ScotRail hoped to have 38 drivers trained by the end of this summer, which is expected to rise to 55 by the end of the year.

She said this was set to rise to a further 100 drivers by June 2023 to meet the Government’s target of an additional 130 drivers.

However, there are currently no driver vacancies advertised by ScotRail.

Scottish Labour has warned cuts to rail services will cause “chaos for passengers and workers and businesses” across the country.

Neil Bibby, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, told GMS: “These cuts of a third of ScotRail services, 700 services a day, is going to cause chaos for passengers and workers and businesses right across Scotland. It’s avoidable and it needs resolved.

"The Scottish Government needs to ensure that ScotRail management are entering into meaningful talks with the unions to ensure that the level of service can be restored for people in Scotland and also needs to address the long-term understaffing that there has been on our railways that’s driving this situation at the moment.”

Ms Gilruth said it was “hugely important” the trade unions now come back to the table as she said the Scottish Government “need to get a resolution on pay” to prevent strike action, adding she is “committed to doing so with trade union partners”.

"It’s important to reflect that we have more drivers working now than ever before and also in terms of driver training, if we hadn’t had the Covid impacts of the pandemic, then we would have had the ability to phase out the use of rest day working,” she said.

Asked if ferry services would see another “summer of uncertainty”, Ms Gilruth denied there would be. She said the Government was working with ferry operator CalMac on specific vessel damages to resolve the timetabling. Ms Gilruth said she accepted this has been a “very difficult time” for island communities.

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