Sunday rail chaos as lack of drivers forces delays

Rail users across Scotland faced delays yesterday after a reduced service was put in place following disputes over train drivers willing to work on Sundays.

A lack of drivers volunteering to work on Sundays has led to ScotRail services being reduced. Picture: Ian Georgeson

A new Sunday timetable had to be drawn up with a third fewer trains operating following a row over pay between new ScotRail franchise holders Abellio and the Aslef drivers’ union.

ScotRail has said that ongoing pay negotiations meant that not enough drivers were volunteering for Sunday shifts.

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Rail bosses insisted they had made a fair offer while the union said the Open Championships later this month were at risk and the Scottish Government should fine Abellio.

The disruption is on top of weeks of havoc caused by major improvement works on the Glasgow-Edinburgh line and other weekend closures over the summer.

Abellio said they inherited a six-day staff rota for a seven-day network and insisted they had made a fair offer to drivers of “higher pay, less weekend working and a better work/life balance”.

Services on the west coast, from Edinburgh to Newcraighall, Fife and Dundee and Helensburgh, the West Highlands and from Inverness to Kyle and Wick all had new reduced timetables.

Passengers took to social media to vent their frustration, where ScotRail’s customer service was manned on Twitter.

Eve Scottsaid: “Absolutely horrendous service from ScotRail today. 1 train cancelled, next 1 16 minutes late (for now). Spotty info, extremely unreliable.”

While @NualanotNoola tweeted: “Thanks to Scotrail I’m going to be late to work 3rd time this week. Go and just pay your drivers what they want so I can actually get to work on time for once rather than gets your bus replacements.”

And @dinosawrus added: “It’s an outrage that ScotRail are reducing their Sunday service instead of increasing it. Everyone else has to work on a Sunday, so do you.”

Abellio said they were committed to hiring another 100 drivers and offered a rise of 2.5 per cent to drivers and a one-off bonus payment that together equalled a 3.7 per cent hike in base salary.

A spokesman added: “It also means that we can deliver a robust service on a Sunday and gives us the opportunity to grow those services. We believe that this is a fair offer and we remain open to discussing it with the unions.”

But the Aslef union disputed the offer and said the new schedule would mean spectators would be unable to attend the Open Championship in St Andrews later this month. They blamed Abellio for the problem and called for the Scottish Government to fine the company.

Kevin Lindsay, the union’s organiser in Scotland, said: “[Abellio] haven’t been negotiating properly, or fairly, but are trying to railroad these new terms and conditions through at the expense of the train drivers who provide the service to passengers.

“Abellio, who now run the ScotRail franchise, are owned by the Dutch government but they don’t treat the Dutch railways like this. It’s scandalous.”