ScotRail’s new timetable, which will see almost 700 fewer train services a day, begins on Monday as the deadlock over driver pay continues.

The move, which will see the last train on many routes departing before 20:00, follows a third Sunday of disruption.

Drivers’ union Aslef has argued a 2.2% pay rise is not acceptable at a time of soaring inflation.

Employment minister Richard Lochhead said he understood the pressures but urged “sensible” pay claims.


Hundreds of trains have been cancelled since 8 May when many drivers opted not to work overtime.

Aslef and the RMT union are both balloting members for strike action after rejecting the pay offer.

Ministers insist that scaling back the number of services under the new temporary timetable will reduce the need for cancellations.

But hospitality and entertainment businesses have warned the transport situation will affect their income, while some commuters are concerned they could be struggling to get home using the rail network.

The original May 2022 timetable had approximately 2,150 weekday services, but from Monday this will be reduced temporarily by a third to 1,456.

Opposition politicians have criticised the move which comes after a Scottish government owned company took over the running of ScotRail last month.

The previous operator Abellio had its franchise ended early amid criticism of the quality of the service.

Speaking on Sunday, when more than 300 services were cancelled, ScotRail’s service delivery director, conceded the temporary timetable would see a reduction in service but said it would also provide customers with “a level of certainty and reliability”.

David Simpson added: “In order to provide a robust timetable with the limited number of available train drivers, we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions and this has meant we’ve been unable to provide a full day’s service across every route.

“We will review the service levels and make any improvements we can as quickly as possible. We’re sorry to our customers for the disruption they’ve faced, and we share their frustration.”

Mr Simpson said the operator wanted to resolve the dispute and remained open to further talks with the trade unions.

Recruitment challenge

It is believed ScotRail needs 130 new drivers to end its reliance on rest-day working.

The operator has been dependent on drivers working extra hours, following delays in training new staff during the Covid pandemic.

Under the new timetable the last train on many routes will now depart up to four hours earlier than usual.

The frequency of many services will also be reduced with, for example, only one direct service a day running from Mallaig, Lochaber to Glasgow at 06:03.

This compares to three under the old timetable and means the only other option is the 18:15 service. It goes via Fort William, where passengers must change to the Caledonian Sleeper.

The Scottish government has said a train driver in Scotland typically earns more than £50,000 a year, and has urged the rail unions to negotiate with ScotRail.

Asked on the BBC’s The Sunday Show if the unions were making reasonable demands, Employment Minister Richard Lochhead said: “My message to all workers in Scotland, in all these sectors, is that we have to sensible.

“Everything has to be affordable because the country is in a very precarious position at the moment and if we take wrong decisions we could end up with a recession.”

But Aslef rejected his comments, saying it was “not sensible” to offer a 2.2% pay increase with inflation running at the current levels.

Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay called on ScotRail to get back to the negotiating table so the “ridiculous timetable cuts” could be withdrawn.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last week she hoped the timetable would get back to normal “as quickly as possible”.

However, this will depend on either a resolution to the pay row or new drivers completing their training, which is expected to take a few months.

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth has said she expects 38 new drivers to be qualified by the end of the summer, 55 by the end of the year, and 100 by June 2023.

She has previously described the practice of rest day working as “outdated” and that the Scottish government was looking to phase it out.

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