Rail strikes threaten to ‘cut off’ Highlands

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Train strike action by the RMT union this week threatens to leave people across the Highlands and Islands cut off, warns a local MSP.

The strikes scheduled for June 21, 23 and 25 are expected to cause severe disruption to rail services, with Network Rail confirming that the industrial action is expected to cost the railway around £30 million per day.

Recently nationalised rail operator ScotRail has confirmed that it will be operating no trains north of the central belt on the strike days, and there are expected to be significant disruptions on other services on days around the strike.

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, the shadow business and tourism minister, said: ‘These strikes threaten to cut-off the north of Scotland at a time when we are already seeing reduced rail services hit our region hard.

‘With confirmation from ScotRail that it will be running none of its services at all into or within the Highlands on the affected days, we are facing a real calamity in our transport network.

‘This will severely disrupt the lives of those who use our railways to get to work, to travel or to reach vital appointments. And there is likely to be considerable knock-on disruption to services on the days around the strikes too.

‘At the start of our key tourist season, this will have an enormous impact on the Highlands and on so many local businesses. And, as I understand, there are currently no plans set out for rail replacement services in the region or for increasing capacity on other transport options.

‘This action by the RMT is irresponsible, particularly in areas like ours where connectivity is so important and where travellers will be left with no other option but to drive, despite high fuel costs.

‘While there will still be some services running across the Central Belt, the network in the Highlands and Islands will be shut down for three days and that is unacceptable.’

‘To put it bluntly, the hospitality sector just can’t take any more,’ said Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the SLTA (Scottish Licensed Trade Association).

‘Businesses are slowly recovering after the pandemic and just when most are feeling optimistic for the first time and looking forward to a good summer, along comes a national rail strike which will deter people from travelling.’

Planned strike action, he said, will affect events such as the Royal Highland Show, and concerts and other events across the country. ‘We are already aware of hotel and restaurant bookings being cancelled,’ he added. ‘Hospitality businesses cannot afford to lose any more trade.’