ScotRail's facing new crisis just as passenger numbers recover - Alastair Dalton

I write about ScotRail more often than pretty much any other transport topic – and not without good reason.

There’s a fierce pride in Scotland’s railways among the thousands of women and men they employ – often for life – which is shared by many passengers and the wider population.

There is also a huge heritage aspect, from genuine icons like the Forth Bridge to the beloved Glasgow Central Station, which now has its own TV series.

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Then there’s the politics, with state funding for ScotRail – already the Scottish Government’s biggest single contract – doubling to nearly £1 billion a year because of the Covid crisis, as it prepares to return to public sector control in April after 25 years in private hands.

Alastair Dalton said the LEZs provided an opportunity to consider the future of vehicles in city centres. Picture: John Devlin

But the most significant factor for our readers is that, pre-pandemic, more and more of you were taking the train, with the once written-off railways becoming an amazing success story that attracted nearly 100 million journeys a year north of the Border.

Ironically, ScotRail had got over many of its problems by the time the coronavirus struck, with new fleets of trains finally fully in service.

Then its reduced timetable, as travel fell, led to high punctuality levels not seen for years.

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Scotland's railways are held in huge popular affection, such as historic Glasgow Central Station, where generations have met and parted. Picture: John Devlin

However, we never seem to be far from a new and often unexpected crisis on the network.

The aftermath of the fatal Carmont crash, with its major implications for safety due to extreme weather, is one.

Another is ScotRail’s deteriorating industrial relations, just when passenger numbers are again on the increase.

Train conductors voted on Thursday to continue strikes which have halted half of Sunday trains since March in a squabble over drivers being paid more for working on days off.

They announced on Friday another six stoppages which will extend the disruption until at least mid-October, and have threatened to continue it through the Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

There is also talk of separate ballots over the lack of a pay rise – and the decision not to reinstate hundreds of daily services suspended during Covid.

I don’t expect ScotRail to fall off my radar any time soon.

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