North at risk of being 'cut off at tourist season peak' in rail strike

A severely scaled back timetable is due to be in place for Scotland next week amid rail strikes but none go North of the Central Belt.

Aberdeen ‘getting short end of the deal’ in rail chaos with services cutting off North iStock
Thousands of ScotRail services are to be temporarily slashed next week.

Nationwide rail strikes risk cutting off communities in the North of Scotland at the “peak of Scotland’s tourist season,” experts have warned.

Industrial action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on June 21, 23 and 25 will severely limit the number of services operating for passengers.

Just 180 of ScotRail’s 2,150 daily routes will be in operation – all of which are along key lines in the Central Belt.

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce warned “non-existent” services meant large swathes of the country would be without transport links – adding to weeks of disruption caused by a pay dispute between drivers’ union Aslef and the newly-nationalised rail operator.

The chamber’s policy adviser, Fergus Mutch, said it was a “nightmare” scenario for those travelling north for either business or leisure.

He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “The skeleton service being proposed which is 180 services out of over 2000 Scotland-wide and none north of the central belt, Aberdeen is being completely cut off.

“We think that’s completely unacceptable, Aberdeen getting the rough end of the deal once again.

“It’s going to be a nightmare, for business travellers, for those going to and from work, people travelling for leisure, evenings out…at the peak of Scotland’s tourist season.

“It’s going to be an absolute disaster. We’ve had severe disruption on our railways for several weeks now and we’re off the back of the most miserable couple of years, it’s going to hit the north-east economy hard.”

Mutch demanded rail bosses install “lifeline” services at the start and end of the day in order to bridge the gap between the throttled timetable.

He added: “People need to get to their place of work. We’re already hearing from businesses in the north-east who are feeling the impact..lost revenue in bars and restaurants, in shops and in other businesses.

“At the very least we want to see a morning and an evening ‘lifeline’ service operating on the east coast connecting Aberdeen to the central belt.”

It comes as Aslef warned Scotland’s railways face another month of disruption before drivers decide whether to accept or reject a new pay deal.

Results from union members’ vote on the tabled 5% increase will not be known until at least July 11 when the deadline for returning ballots ends.

Around 700 train services were cut after many drivers refused to work overtime or on on their rest days.