Swinney 'confident' of extra train services for Scotland-Ukraine match

Scotland will play against Ukraine at Hampden next week.

John Swinney ‘very confident’ of extra ScotRail train services for Scotland-Ukraine match at Hampden SNS Group
ScotRail services have been reduced due to a shortage of train drivers.

John Swinney has said he is “very confident” that ScotRail will have additional services in place for Scotland fans travelling to Hampden for the world cup qualifier against Ukraine.

A temporary, reduced timetable was put in place by ScotRail from Monday due to having a shortage of drivers.

Almost a third of Scotland’s train services have been axed as a result.

Talks are taking place between the Government-owned rail company and unions in an effort to resolve the issue, with train drivers having declined to work overtime or on rest days.

ScotRail said it had been reliant on drivers doing so in order to run a normal timetable, with training of new drivers delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked whether the Government will have “got a grip” of the situation by the time of Scotland’s match against Ukraine, which takes place on Wednesday evening next week.

Deputy first minister Swinney appeared at FMQs in place of Nicola Sturgeon, who is recovering from Covid-19.

“Delays, last-minute cancellations and reduced services are causing real problems for passengers right across the country,” Ross told MSPs.

“And next week, our national men’s team are playing their biggest match for over two decades.

“The Tartan Army will need to and from Hampden on ScotRail.

“Deputy first minister, will your government have got a grip of this situation by then?

“And if not, when can people expect the rail service that they need?”

Swinney told the Scottish Parliament that announcements for the Ukraine match will be made in “due course”.

He responded: “Mr Ross knows full well that there are negotiations underway between the employers, ScotRail, and the trade unions to resolve the industrial dispute that has limited services just now, and that dialogue is underway as it properly should be.

“He asks me about the Ukraine match, and obviously we want to see more services in place to deal with the Ukraine match.

“And I’m very confident that ScotRail will have in place additional services to ensure that the specific requirements of addressing Hampden will be addressed as part of that process, and there will be announcements made in due course.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also raised the issue of ScotRail’s reduced services at FMQs.

Sarwar hit out at the lack of replacement buses available across the country.

He said: “While this deputy first minister and his colleagues have 28 chauffeur-driven cars, costing over £1m to get them to and from their work, this SNP-Green government is cutting a thousand services a day, offering no replacement bus services and forcing people to work hours just to pay for a taxi home.

“Shouldn’t he and every other minister hand back the keys to the ministerial chauffeur cars until they get this sorted and get Scotland moving again?”

Swinney pointed to action being taken by the Scottish Government aimed at helping people struggling with the cost-of-living.

He responded: “What this government is doing is providing practical help to people with the cost-of-living.

“So for example, the Scottish Government has doubled the child payment in Scotland to £20 per week, it will go up to £25 per week, and none of that support is available in any other part of the United Kingdom, including in Labour-run Wales.

“In addition to that, the Scottish Government has assisted individuals with council tax support, we’ve assisted individuals with direct support through carers’ allowance for example and other measures.”

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