Scots railway jobs threatened by cost cutting bid

Keith Brown says it is a golden age of the train in Scotland. Picture: Greg Macvean
Keith Brown says it is a golden age of the train in Scotland. Picture: Greg Macvean
Have your say

DOZENS of redundancies are to be sought on Scotland’s railways to cut costs, The Scotsman has learned.

The planned savings follow the launch of a new “alliance” for closer working between train operator ScotRail and track owner Network Rail.

Overlapping posts would be removed, with reductions among engineering and control room staff, and management.

Fewer maintenance staff are required because a new fleet of electric trains will be maintained by manufacturer Hitachi rather than in-house.

However, no cuts are planned among drivers, and very few for “frontline” workers such as train crews and station staff.

ScotRail has pledged to make no compulsory redundancies among its 5,000-strong workforce. This does not apply to Network Rail’s 2,000 workers, but the latest pay offer to its operations and maintenance staff includes such a commitment until December next year. Reducing costs is a cornerstone of the alliance between the two organisations, which was launched last month, six weeks after Dutch firm Abellio took over the ScotRail franchise.

It could further cut the taxpayer funding needed to run Scotland’s railways, which fell by £20 million to £778m this year.

This is despite Scotland enjoying what infrastructure secretary Keith Brown called a “new golden age of the train”, with passenger numbers increasing by one third in the past decade to 90 million a year and new lines such as the Borders Railway, which opens in September.

The news drew an angry response from rail unions.

Kevin Lindsay, Scotland district secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, whose shunters could be affected, said: “This is unacceptable, jobs are not for sale at any cost.”

Phil Hogg, of the RMT, called for talks before any letters were sent to staff. He said: “We are in the business of creating jobs and making conditions better.”

The alliance downplayed the scale of redundancies, but declined to give numbers.

Spokesman Rob Shorthouse said: “The aim of the alliance is to develop more collaborative and effective ways of working that lead to greater efficiencies in our overall operation.

“Our proposals for the alliance include the introduction of new roles and also changes to reporting lines and structures.

“Some of these changes could present opportunities to make the team more effective and efficient. However, there are no proposals to significantly change our combined head count.

“Where any changes are proposed, these will be discussed and consulted with staff and unions through our existing procedures. All affected employees would be fully briefed as part of the consultation process on any changes that may affect them.

“Our employees are our strength and our most valuable asset. All of our plans centre on how our employees contribute to the growth and development of our business.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise that staff are vital to the success of the alliance and it is why we have enshrined a no-compulsory redundancy guarantee within the franchise contract, a commitment that is the first of its kind anywhere in the UK.

“The alliance will support a more efficient management and operation of the rail network in Scotland.”