ScotRail staff to launch fresh strikes

ScotRail train Image copyright Transport Scotland
Image caption ScotRail staff are due to stage another four stoppages in the dispute over driver-only trains

ScotRail staff are to launch a fresh wave of strikes after talks to resolve a row over driver-only trains broke up.

Members of the RMT union were already due to take strike action over the long-running dispute, but extra dates have now been added.

They include two 48-hour strikes and two 24-hour stoppages, with the first due to start on Sunday.

The RMT described the move as "another round of needless, damaging strikes".

The Scottish government said it had contacted both parties, calling on them to "put their differences to one side and reach an agreement in order to minimise disruption for the public".

ScotRail staff have already staged four walkouts, causing disruption to rail services.

Talks have been taking place to resolve the dispute.

However on Friday, conciliation and arbitration service Acas said discussions between the RMT and ScotRail had adjourned "to allow both sides to consider their positions".

It added: "Our services remain available."

RMT's revised programme of strike action:

* 00.01 to 23.59 on 3 July

* 00.01 on 10 July to 23.59 on 11 July

* 00.01 to 23.59 on 14 July

* 00.01 on 16 July to 23.59 on 17 July

The dispute relates to driver-only-operation (DOO) trains, where the driver is asked to close the doors at stations, instead of the on-board conductor.

The unions have claimed the procedure poses a risk to passenger safety but ScotRail has said it would always schedule a second person on trains.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Despite a series of rock-solid strikes it is extraordinary that Abellio/ScotRail continue to ignore the strength of feeling amongst their staff over the extension of DOO.

"That disgraceful and cavalier approach to jobs and safety on Scotland's railways now leaves us with no choice but to move to a new phase of industrial action.

"Our members on ScotRail stand determined and united in this fight for jobs and safety on Scotland's rail services."

Image caption The dispute centres on the introduction of additional driver-only operations

ScotRail managing director Phil Verster said: "The RMT have announced another round of needless, damaging strikes on the evening before we are due to come together for talks.

"This clearly marks the difference between our two approaches. We want to talk, they want to strike.

"The people who lose out are our customers who will face more disruption and our own people who will be hit hard in the pocket.

"It is important to remember that this is a strike about who opens and closes doors on our trains.

"No-one will lose their jobs, no one will see their pay drop or see any change to their terms and conditions."

He added: "We are not removing people from trains, we are talking about what they do so that they always provide the very best service to our customers.

"We will continue to arrange talks - just as we have done for tomorrow.

"However, we will never find a solution if the RMT continues in this manner.

"These strikes are very real and are hurting our customers and our people. It is time to end the strikes and start meaningful discussions."

Safety 'priority'

The planned rail strikes were discussed at a meeting of the Scottish government's resilience committee on Friday.

Afterwards, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: "The absolute priority throughout this process has been safety and encouraging a satisfactory resolution to this dispute.

"We have today again spoken with ScotRail and also written to the RMT calling on them to put their differences to one side and reach an agreement in order to minimise disruption for the public.

"In my letter to the RMT today I have reiterated that safety on the railways is the Scottish government's paramount concern which is why, after reading RMT's publication 'The Safety Critical Role of the Guard', I took advice from the independent Rail Regulator (ORR) on the safety of driver controlled trains.

"On the basis of their scrutiny of this subject over a number of years, ORR have provided that reassurance.

"The ORR acts independently of both industry and government within a clearly defined legal framework and is therefore able to take decisions which are objective, impartial and transparent."

He added: "We thank the travelling public for their continued patience.

"The contingency planning put in place by ScotRail has worked well so far, but we do appreciate there will be some impact if further strikes occur, which is regrettable, especially as we gear up for a busy season of summer activity, including T in the Park and The Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon."

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