Scotland

Scottish sleeper trains halted by RMT strike

Caledonian sleeper Image copyright Iain McLean

Strike action on rail sleeper services between Scotland and London begins later.

There will be no further sleeper services before Christmas, in spite of this normally being an especially busy period.

Members of the RMT union voted to back the 48-hour strike in a dispute with operator Serco over defects on trains.

Serco has insisted that any faults on its rolling stock have been repaired, or will be repaired.

The industrial action begins at 18:30.

Talks held at the conciliation service Acas on Monday failed to resolve the dispute.

The strike has forced Serco to cancel trains and refund passengers.

'Complete contempt'

The RMT has said its members are concerned about a range of faults on the trains, which Serco has failed to fix.

It claims there are more than 200 faults including smoke detectors being disconnected, toilets being inoperable, lighting and heating systems not working, lack of hot water in some coaches and air conditioning problems throughout the summer.

The company insisted that many of these issues had been resolved, or were in the process of being resolved.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: "The poor service to passengers, in conjunction with the company's failure to address the issues raised by RMT representatives and officials in talks right up to the wire late last night, reached the point where the union decided enough is enough and left us with no option but to put on industrial action before someone is injured.

"That action now goes ahead. Serco never had any intention of taking the talks process seriously and have treated both staff and public with complete contempt throughout."

He added: "Our members have been unhappy with Serco's management of the iconic service from Scotland to London since the very early days of them taking on this 15-year franchise. This is yet another example of Serco winning public sector contracts and failing to deliver for the tax payer, passengers and staff. "

'Extremely disappointed'

Peter Strachan, managing director of Caledonian Sleeper, said Serco representatives attended talks on Monday with "every intention" of seeking a resolution to the dispute.

He said: "I am extremely disappointed that we have not been able to do so given the many and varied issues that they have raised have either been resolved or are in the process of being resolved through a robust and detailed repair and maintenance plan.

"The RMT has chosen to press ahead with this industrial action just before Christmas and one of the busiest times of the year.

"I am particularly sorry for our guests who will now be significantly inconvenienced by this entirely unnecessary 48-hour strike."

Mr Strachan said 95% of the service's guests who were due to travel had been contacted and offered full refunds or re-bookings.

He added: "We are doing everything we can to help our guests arrange alternative transport and to get any stranded passengers to Scotland, we have also arranged an additional late-night seated train service from London Euston to Glasgow on both evenings."

Scottish sleeper services are due to resume on 27 December but further industrial action is possible in the new year.

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