Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Safety fears over Airdrie-Bathgate rail link

Track work - Pic: Network Rail
The new line is due to be complete by December 2010

An MSP has raised safety concerns over the new Airdrie to Bathgate rail link.

Elaine Smith, MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston, said she was alarmed by proposals which could see "driver-only" services operating on the new route.

She has tabled a motion at Holyrood urging the Scottish government and First Scotrail to keep guards on the trains.

First Scotrail said "driver only" trains were a myth and staff levels would not be cut.

The £300m Airdrie to Bathgate rail link is due to open in December 2010.

Ms Smith is backing a campaign by the RMT rail union which is seeking to raise public opposition to the extension of "driver only " train operations in Scotland.

Her motion lodged at the Scottish Parliament said that "driver only" services "will increase safety risks because passengers will not benefit from the protection of having a guard responsible for the safe running of the train."

The Airdrie-Bathgate line will create 130 new jobs - including more than 30 ticket examiners who will be present on the trains in addition to drivers
First Scotrail spokesman

First Scotrail disputed the claim that "driver only" services would be introduced on the Airdrie to Bathgate route.

The company said the train doors would be driver-operated but there would also be ticket examiners present on the services.

A spokesman said: "The union's campaign boils down to who opens and shuts doors on trains which are no different from those which have operated in Strathclyde for 25 years and have been proved in all conditions.

"Indeed, 56% of all ScotRail journeys are on driver-operated door trains with ticket examiners - almost 47 million journeys a year."

Campaign launch

He added: "It would cost £1.4m to convert trains on the new route to allow conductors - dubbed guards by the RMT - to open and close the doors.

"The Airdrie-Bathgate line will create 130 new jobs - including more than 30 ticket examiners who will be present on the trains in addition to drivers."

Labour MSP, Ms Smith, attended an official launch of the Keep the Guard on My Train campaign at Waverley Station in Edinburgh.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: "We cannot have a situation where travellers are left vulnerable because corners are being cut on staffing levels in order to maximise profits.

"RMT will be mobilising public and political support with the objective of making sure that passengers have the reassurance of having a trained guard close at hand when they are using First Scotrail's new service."

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