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Rail strikes will be damaging says Far North line campaigner

By David G Scott

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With this week's rail disruption affecting services across the country a campaigner for the far north line believes the strike action may prove counterproductive.

The strike has been called by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), which has tens of thousands of members including guards, signallers, catering staff and cleaners.

Trains between Inverness and Wick/Thurso are running a skeleton service due to the strike action by Network Rail's RMT members this week and ScotRail reminds customers of disruption beyond the days of strike action which will continue into the weekend.

Empty train at Wick railway station. Picture: DGS
Empty train at Wick railway station. Picture: DGS

Though the dispute does not involve ScotRail staff, it is having a major knock-on effect on the train operator’s ability to provide services as the planned action involves Network Rail staff in Scotland who are members of RMT.

Many of the Network Rail staff that are due to take part in the planned industrial action occupy safety-critical roles and, as such, it will not be possible for ScotRail to run the vast majority of services.

Ian Budd convenor of a rail campaign group called Friends of the Far North Line (FoFNL) said that though he has sympathies for both sides in the matter he did not agree with striking at a time when it will "do so much damage".

Mr Budd added: "Whilst we all understand the reasons for the rail union members looking for a pay rise to keep pace with inflation, these reasons apply to most people at present.

The public is urged to check advised to check updated times on the National Rail Enquiries real-time journey planner. Picture: DGS
The public is urged to check advised to check updated times on the National Rail Enquiries real-time journey planner. Picture: DGS

"The Friends of the Far North Line campaigns for improvements to infrastructure and services in order to meet government targets for the modal shift to rail, which is needed to reduce our use of fossil fuels and power in general.

"The difficulties this industrial action will create for people trying to get to work, education or hospital treatment will not be helpful when the government is trying to persuade travellers to switch to rail. The combination of the temporary timetable and [this] week's action will mean that even on the days in between the strikes very few trains indeed will be running on the Far North Line."

Customers are advised to only travel if they really need to and should consider alternative options where possible.

David Simpson, ScotRail service delivery director, said: “Regrettably, the disruption caused by the RMT Network Rail strike action extends to the days following strike action as well. This is due to Network Rail signal boxes across Scotland’s Railway opening at different times throughout the day.

“This means, for some routes, it may be later in the day before we’re able to operate services as normal.

“I’d encourage anyone planning to travel on the railway on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, to check their journey in advance to see if their train is running, and on days of strike action to only travel if they really need to on the five routes where services are operating.”

ScotRail urges the public to check journey times in advance by using its app or by visiting scotrail.co.uk for the latest information.

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