Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Row over staffing levels on Airdrie-Bathgate rail link

ScotRail train
The train drivers would operate the doors on the new route

A row has broken out over staffing levels on the new Airdrie to Bathgate rail link.

The RMT rail union has claimed that First Scotrail has admitted it will run driver-only trains on the new route between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The train operator insisted the services would be staffed by ticket examiners as well as drivers.

However, First Scotrail said that in "unforeseen circumstances" trains may run with just a driver.

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

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

The RMT claimed that in a briefing to MSPs the train operator admitted that "there may be times when we may choose to operate a train without a second person."

It is disappointing the scheduled reopening of the £300m Airdrie-Bathgate is at risk in a dispute over which member of staff on the train will open and close the doors
First Scotrail spokesman

Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, said: "Scotrail have let the cat out of the bag. We now know that their reason for failing to bring guards onto the new Aidrie/Bathgate service is so that they can run trains with just one member of staff.

"No guard, no ticket examiner just the driver up in the cab with all of the security and safety risks that such a policy brings with it.

"When they've done it once we have no doubt that they will try and get away with it over and over again, creating a massive security and safety risk for the travelling public while at the same time jacking up their own profits by saving money on staffing levels."

He added: "The only safe solution is guards on the trains."

First Scotrail said the Airdrie-Bathgate services would be no different from those which have operated in the west of Scotland for the past 25 years.

The drivers on the new route will operate the train doors but there will also be ticket examiners present on the services.

'Massive inconvenience'

A spokesman said: "We are the only UK train operator that is required through its contract to provide a second person on all its services.

"However, we can in rare, unforeseen circumstances - such as a member of staff calling off duty at late notice - run a train rather than cause massive inconvenience to our customers.

He added: "It is disappointing the scheduled reopening of the £300m Airdrie-Bathgate is at risk in a dispute over which member of staff on the train will open and close the doors.

"There would be no question of them operating if they were not safe."

Last week Coatbridge and Chryston MSP Elaine Smith lodged a motion at Holyrood urging the Scottish government and First Scotrail to keep guards on the trains.

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