Page last updated at 00:30 GMT, Saturday, 20 February 2010

Strike action over rail service

RMT members on the picket line
RMT members gathered for a picket at Queen Street station in Glasgow

The first of three 24-hour strikes on First Scotrail services by members of the RMT union is under way.

The dispute, involving about 550 workers, is over plans to operate without conductors on a new service between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said the arrangement on the new Airdrie-Bathgate route would jeopardise public safety.

First Scotrail denied the safety concerns and said it would be "business as usual" during the strike.

The company is hoping to run 90 percent of services across Scotland during the action.

The £300m Airdrie to Bathgate rail link is due to open in December.

Scotrail have been caught out once again playing fast and loose with public safety
Bob Crow
RMT General Secretary

It is designed to complete the "missing link" for communities between Glasgow and Edinburgh, such as areas of North Lanarkshire and West Lothian.

Under its contract with Scottish ministers, First Scotrail is required to have a second person on the train at all times.

First ScotRail wants to operate trains using drivers and ticket examiners and not conductors.

Managing director of First ScotRail, Steve Montgomery, said: "The trains will be no different from those which have operated in Strathclyde for 25 years.

"It appears the RMT is now saying these trains are unsafe.

"But for more than two decades they have carried 56% of passengers and they are also no different from those on the Larkhall branch line which reopened four years ago without objection from the RMT."

Mr Crow said: "Scotrail have been caught out once again playing fast and loose with public safety.

"They are deliberately ignoring the crucial safety role played by the guards on their services.

"Rather than admitting that they have existing agreements with the union and with the Scottish Parliament that rule out driver-only operation, Scotrail are taking every opportunity to ignore the safety issues and to resort to out and out provocation."

Contingency plans

The company said it intended to run at least nine out of 10 trains across Scotland during the strike.

Mr Montgomery added: "It is business as usual for Scotland's railway.

"Our contingency plans are such that almost all our customers will not notice there is a strike."

A number of rural services are being replaced by buses.

A small number of services have been cancelled.

First Scotrail has previously said that if the new trains were to be operated by conductors, £1.4m would have to be spent converting the trains for their use.

It said the modifications would also delay the timing of the new route opening.

RMT workers across Scotland have also voted for strike action on 1 March and 13 March.



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