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Rail workers to rally against closure of historic yard

In December last year, Gemini Rail Services announced its intention to close Springburn rail depot.

Springburn: The site will be completely closed by next year. <strong>Getty Images</strong>
Springburn: The site will be completely closed by next year. Getty Images

Operations have ceased at a historic rail yard in Glasgow after 160 years.

Union members rallied at the gates of Springburn rail depot to protest during the final day of operations.

In December last year, Gemini Rail Services announced its intention to close the site – axing almost 200 jobs.

Despite a consultation being launched in January and several meetings taking place to find an alternative use for the site, Gemini confirmed in March it will close down operations.

The Springburn depot carries out service, maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrades on all of ScotRail’s fleet.

The closure means that the repairs and maintenance of Scotland’s rail stock will be carried out in England – in what union RMT has called an insult to the industry in Scotland and “a wanton act of industrial vandalism”.

A gradual closure will see the depot completely shut by next year, however operations ceased at the St Rollox “Caley” site on Friday.

RMT called for widespread “political and public support” on the final day of operations.

At 11am, the workforce and supporters met at the sheds inside the depot and marched to the gates for a rally to mark the completion of the final project at the site with “banners and flags held high”.

At 12pm, Unite the union also held a rally at the main gate with a piper leading the workforce out.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The closure of the Springburn Rail Depot in Glasgow is an act of industrial vandalism that will not be forgotten.

“This is just another example of the fragmentation of the privatised rail industry where prime assets are passed from one speculative owner to another and mean that a proud railway nation like Scotland loses a key engineering resource at the stroke of a pen regardless of the consequences for jobs, training and the local economy.

“It is an absolute disgrace.”

Pat McIlvogue, Unite regional industrial officer, added: “If there is no urgent intervention by the Scottish Government then this will be the last day of a long and proud 163 years history.

“However, we still believe that if there is the necessary political will then this doesn’t need to be the case.

“The Caley can have a proud future ahead of it. The campaign to secure this future will go on but today represents a potentially poignant moment in Scotland’s industrial story.”

Glasgow: Operations will cease at the site on Friday. Getty Images

The introduction of more modern trains, leading to a drop in the number of pre-privatisation stock in operation, is one of the reasons Gemini gave for its decision to close the depot.

It said it will see 6648 vehicles last year drop to just 1407 in 2024 – with only around 10% in Scotland and the north of England where Springburn serves.

Scottish Labour and Unite have joined forces to launch a series of campaign films to save the rail works.

The films feature an impassioned plea from the workforce for “forward thinking”.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard and local MP Paul Sweeney, who have consistently championed the Rally Roon the Caley campaign, have also called for the SNP government to “nationalise the works and in doing so protect the site and workforce as a vital part of future railway engineering in Scotland”.

Mr Leonard said: “The Caley rail works is a national asset, and the SNP government should be prepared to step in and take it into public ownership to secure its future.”

Final day: The last train left the yard on Friday. Paul Sweeney MP

MP Paul Sweeney joined the workforce in solidarity on Friday.

He said: “We just watched the last train leave the Springburn works – the Caley works – after 163 years of continuous operation.

“It’s unacceptable and it didn’t need to happen.

“We’ll continue to fight on for the workers here, to find a secure future for this site so it could be reactivated as a railway engineering centre of excellence once again.

“And we’ll be calling on the government to send for those workers that they’ve just allowed to be made redundant, today breaking the thread of 163 years of engineering excellence.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is clearly very disappointing that Gemini Rail commenced closure of the Springburn works and this is a very concerning time for the remaining staff and their families.

“The timescale Gemini Rail set as part of the statutory consultation process was too short and did not allow a meaningful review of options for the site.

“However, despite our representations, Gemini has refused to postpone the closure.

“No other business in the rail sector has expressed solid interest in the site in its current form, that is why Scottish Enterprise is doing all it can to look at the potential of repurposing the site to ensure a sustainable future.

“We will also do everything we can to support affected workers through PACE employee support.

“A number of staff have already benefited from this and taken up employment opportunities at other rail workshops in Scotland.”


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