Jenny Gilruth has said Scotland will ‘absolutely not’ see a reduced train timetable running until the summer of 2023 despite concerns over driver shortages.
Ms Gilruth is due to meet ScotRail bosses on Friday to discuss major rail service cuts amid an ongoing pay dispute with rail union Aslef.
From Monday, nearly 700 rail services will be cut across Scotland under what the Scottish Government has called “the temporary timetable”.
Train drivers recently turned down a 2.2 percent wage offer and subsequently refused to work overtime or rest days.
After ScotRail entered public ownership seven weeks ago, Ms Gilruth said she wanted to work with unions to ‘make public ownership a success’.
The ScotRail network depends on the day off being worked at the moment, says Jenny Gi…
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland (GMS), Ms Gilruth said: ‘It is only fair that ScotRail as an employer negotiates with Aslef in the room, so that we can achieve this outcome mutually agreed and that we can remove this temporary schedule that had to be brought.
“This schedule is temporary and I don’t want it to last another minute.”
The Minister said ScotRail hoped to have 38 trained drivers by the end of this summer, which was expected to increase to 55 by the end of the year.
She said that number should increase to 100 additional drivers by June 2023 to meet the government’s target of 130 additional drivers.
However, there are currently no vacant driver positions advertised by ScotRail.
The Scottish Labor Party has warned that cuts to rail services will lead to “chaos for passengers, workers and businesses” across the country.
Neil Bibby, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, told GMS: ‘These one-third cuts to ScotRail services, 700 services a day, will wreak havoc on passengers, workers and businesses across the country. ‘Scotland. It is preventable and needs to be addressed.
“The Scottish Government must ensure that ScotRail management enter into meaningful talks with unions to ensure that the standard of service can be restored for people in Scotland and must also address the long-term staff shortages that there has been on our railroads who is leading this situation at this time.
Ms Gilruth said it was ‘extremely important’ that unions now come back to the table as she said the Scottish Government ‘needs to get a pay resolution’ to prevent strikes, adding that she ‘s’ undertakes to do so with the trade union partners”. ”.
“It is important to reflect that we have more drivers working now than ever before and also in terms of driver training, had we not had the Covid impacts of the pandemic then we would have had the opportunity to eliminate gradually the use of workday rest,” she said.
Asked if ferry services would see another ‘summer of uncertainty’, Ms Gilruth denied there would be. She said the government was working with ferry operator CalMac on specific vessel damage to resolve the timetables. Ms Gilruth said she accepted it was a “very difficult time” for island communities.