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There has been a warning that the reduced emergency rail timetable announced by ScotRail, which came into force on Monday, will cause ‘chaos’ for passengers on the West Highland Line.
That was the fear from the West Highland Community Rail Partnership (WHCRP) this week as the temporary timetable saw almost 700 fewer daily train services due to the ongoing deadlock over drivers’ pay.
ScotRail has said the temporary timetable aims to provide greater certainty and reliability for customers, as the current level of cancellations is not sustainable for customers and colleagues.
Like many train operators across Britain, ScotRail has relied on drivers working overtime or on their rest days.
In 2019, ScotRail committed to employing more drivers to phase out the reliance on this practice, however, it said the Covid pandemic meant that driver training was significantly delayed.
David Simpson, ScotRail service delivery director, said: ‘We want to resolve this dispute with the trade unions and move forward together to provide the safest, greenest, and most reliable railway we can for Scotland. We remain open to further talks with the trade unions.’
But Hege Hernaes, from the WHCRP, said while the organisation had no wish to comment on the on-going industrial dispute, it was clear that the reduced emergency timetable would cause what she called ‘chaos’ aboard remaining trains given the high demand for rail travel on the West Highland Line at this time of year.
And she added: ‘Nevertheless, the communities and businesses at Corrour and Rannoch stations will be the worst affected, as they are almost entirely reliant on the railway.
‘While this temporary timetable is in operation, locals will not be able to travel to Glasgow and back by train in a day, and those who have carefully planned their daily commute to fit in with the normal train schedule, will now have to make other plans.
‘We have no idea how long this reduced timetable will remain in operation and can only hope that things will go back to normal before local rail users turn their back on the railway for good.’
Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has warned that West Highland train users were now faced with reduced options on when they could travel, leaving the car as the only option for some and meaning roads risked becoming even more congested.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said: ‘The reduced service, with the ‘last train’ often far earlier than previously, will mean many will have to make alternative arrangements just to get home, or simply choose not to travel at all.
‘It will leave many people who have to travel with no option but to use their cars, forcing folk back onto roads which can already be busy at peak times. And we’re already seeing roads become busier as the summer approaches.’