ScotRail has a plan to prevent travel chaos ahead of Scotland’s World Cup play-off on June 1, transport minister Jenny Gilruth has said.
Around 50,000 football fans will descend on Hampden Park in Glasgow in just over a week as the national team face Ukraine in one of their most important matches for 20 years.
However, travel chaos – caused by the ScotRail pay dispute – could derail their plans as train services face significant timetable reductions.
ScotRail, nationalised in April, slashed more than 700 services across the country on Monday due to deadlock discussions with train drivers’ union Aslef.
Drivers are refusing to work overtime and on rest days because of an unresolved pay dispute after they rejected a 2.2% increase offer, with the option of a revenue share agreement which would have taken the package to five per cent.
With the Tartan Army expected to travel from across Scotland, Gilruth said she is keen for a resolution to be reached between all parties.
In response to a topical parliamentary question from Conservative North East MSP Tess White on whether alternative transport arrangements would be in place for travelling fans, Gilruth said she “understands” the concerns from supporters.
She said: “This is, of course, Scotland’s most important game in a long time and we really want to ensure that supporters can get to and from the match on public transport using, where possible, our bus services across Scotland.
“I would note though, before this timetable was introduced, the last train from Glasgow to Aberdeen would have been at 21.40, meaning it still would not have returned people home to Aberdeen after the match.
“ScotRail is aware of the various large cultural and sporting events across the summer and the impact the reduced timetable might have on them.
“It’s currently being reflected by ScotRail in terms of how they will address that.”
In an update from ScotRail on Friday, Gilruth said she has had assurances “that plans are in place and they will publicise details of this in due course. as they do will all major events”.
“I will be meeting with ScotRail tomorrow to seek an update on this work and more broadly, of course, the negotiations as they are due to meet with Aslef this afternoon.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie told Gilruth that Scotland will suffer “humiliation” if the services are not resolved in time for the 150th Open Championship being held in St Andrews in July.
Gilruth said since the event is still some months away, she hopes “to reach a resolution” with the unions before the historic golf event, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which runs from August 5 to August 29.