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Anas Sarwar: There should be replacement buses to cover cut train services

Anas Sarwar raised the issue at First Ministers’ Questions (Jane Barlow/PA)
Anas Sarwar raised the issue at First Ministers’ Questions (Jane Barlow/PA)

Anas Sarwar has pressed John Swinney to introduce replacement bus services for ScotRail trains disrupted due to the pay dispute.

The Scottish Labour leader said he had been told that no replacement bus services were available anywhere in the country.

Mr Swinney, who was standing in for Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, said work was ongoing to resolve the dispute and train new drivers.

ScotRail, which was nationalised in April, cut more than 700 services across Scotland on Monday due to deadlock discussions with train drivers’ union Aslef.

Scottish Budget 2022-23
John Swinney said work was ongoing to resolve the dispute (Jeff J Mitchell)

Drivers are refusing to work overtime and on rest days because of an unresolved pay dispute after they rejected a 2.2% increase offer, with the option of a revenue share agreement which would have taken the package to five per cent.

Mr Sarwar told Holyrood he had heard from a woman called Leanne, who was facing having to pay taxi fares each time she worked as there was no train available when her shift finished in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, to return home to Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire.

The Scottish Labour leader said: “In the middle of a cost of living crisis, she has to spend £20 on a taxi.

“That means she has to work two hours just to pay to get home. That’s the reality for thousands of people across the country.”

New Scotrail timetable
Hundreds of services have been cut (Jane Barlow/PA)

He asked how many of the cut services had been replaced with a bus service.

Mr Swinney said he sympathised with the situation people like Leanne were in.

He said train driver training had been paused during the pandemic and there was now a pool of 900 pending driver applications.

The Deputy First Minister said: “We are in a period of difficulty just, though, because drivers are exercising their voluntary right not to undertake rest day working.

“We are trying to resolve those issues by the negotiation that is taking place.”

Mr Sarwar responded: “(When) the Deputy First Minister spoke, he didn’t actually answer the question.”

The Scottish Labour leader said he had sent a WhatsApp message to ScotRail to ask about replacement bus services and was told “no, there isn’t any”.

Mr Sarwar said: “Shouldn’t he and every other minister hand back the keys to their ministerial chauffeur cars until they get this sorted and get Scotland moving again?”

The Deputy First Minister said the Government was providing help with the cost of living.

He said: “What is the Labour Party doing?

“The Labour Party is getting into bed with the Tory party in council administrations around the country.”

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