Scotrail and RMT to talk to stop further strikes

Scotrail and the RMT have announced that they are to meet for talks next week in a bid to resolve a dispute on staffing plans for the new rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh that saw rail workers walk out on Saturday.

Saturday’s strike was the first of three planned 24 hour walkouts by RMT workers in protest at Scotrail’s plans to have the new trains between Airdrie and Bathgate staffed by a driver and ticket inspector but no formal guard. RMT argue that this goes against an agreement that Scotrail have with the Scottish Parliament that they will not operate any driver only (DOO) trains.

Train operator ScotRail said that nine out of 10 services ran as normal during the strike on Saturday, but some were cancelled and some rural services were replaced by buses.

The exact date of the talks has yet to be fixed, but RMT said it had been contacted by ScotRail on Saturday. RMT general secretary, Bob Crow, said: "As far as the RMT is concerned we would like to see discussions at the earliest possible opportunity. It’s important that they are meaningful talks and not just window dressing by First ScotRail."

RMT say conductors, or guards, are best equipped to deal with serious incidents, and that ScotRail’s plan to employ ticket examiners instead would jeopardise passenger safety.

First Scotrail say that adapting the new trains so that conductors, rather than drivers, opened the doors would cost taxpayers £1.4 million and delay the opening of the new route which will link Glasgow and Edinburgh via Bathgate and is due to open later in 2010.

It said the trains were no different from those that had run in the Strathclyde region around Glasgow for 25 years. However, RMT is planning to send a report to back up its case to Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson.

ScotRail managing director Steve Montgomery said he welcomed the confirmation that union officials were willing to take part in meaningful talks.

Further strikes are planned for March 1 and March 13, the day Scotland face England in the Six Nations at Murrayfield.

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