Rail strike in Scotland threatens to disrupt UN climate conference

Class 385 electric train in Scotland, source: Hitachi Rail UK

Scotland’s transport minister says he is not optimistic about averting a mass strike by rail staff during the UN Climate Conference. Union RMT has said the strike will continue earlier this week. The climate conference will start next Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland.

According to minister Graeme Dey, travellers to the climate conference can expect disruptions and delays, although contingency plans have been made to avoid the consequences of the imminent strike. Especially the Glasgow-Edinburgh route and the Scottish intercity lines can expect disruptions, British media report. Transport company ScotRail is talking about a ‘decimation of train services’.

Union RMT said on Monday that the strike action will continue during the climate conference COP26, and demanded from the Scottish National Party (SNP), the politicians calling the shots on the talks, that they ‘lift the roadblock’. RMT members voted to reject a revised pay offer ‎from Scotrail, for which deadline was given to the union of 27 October 5pm. “We have been given a wholly arbitrary deadline of 5pm on Wednesday to accept this deal or the whole pay offer will be pulled. You cannot conduct serious negotiations with that sort of gun pointed at your head”, said RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch.

Salary increase

The RMT union, which represents conductors and ticket office workers in particular, has so far not agreed to the Scottish government’s proposals for a pay rise. Three other unions, including train drivers’ union Aslef, have accepted a pay deal of 4.7 per cent over two years, including a 300 pound bonus for working during the summit.

If no agreement is reached by 5pm, ScotRail will use the rest of the week to train other staff to take over the work of conductors and ticket inspectors. Unlike other countries, no trains can run in Scotland without a conductor on board.

Climate train

The UN climate conference COP26 starts on Sunday 31 October and lasts until Friday 12 November. For this occasion, some 120 world leaders and 30,000 visitors will come to Glasgow. A special climate train will depart from Amsterdam for COP26 via Brussels on Saturday. On board will be, among others, the Dutch, Belgian and French delegation of railway companies and policymakers. According to organisation Rail to the COP, the Scottish strike will have no effect on the running of the climate train. That is what Erika van der Linden of Rail to the COP said to sister title SpoorPro last week.

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Author: Paul van den Bogaard

Paul van den Bogaard is editor of SpoorPro, a sister title of RailTech

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