There are currently fears that ScotRail will not be returning to its full timetable for the foreseeable future, if ever, due to an impending driver shortage. Through the use of freedom of information, figures have been released that show how the Scottish rail operator would need an extra 100 drivers to ensure a return to a full timetable.
The rail operator is currently using a reduced timetable, seen over the last few months, which has cut back journeys with the central belt drastically. Currently relying on the overtime of existing workers to ensure operations run smoothly, Scotrail are in the midst of training 130 new drivers. Even the reliance on overtime work has been unsustainable due to train drivers refusing to work overtime and on their rest days amidst a pay dispute with the Scottish Government, though this issue has now been resolved.
Whilst the shortage of staff is being addressed, these drivers will not be able to start work until they have completed an extensive 18-month training course. Even once that 18 window has been completed, the company will only be left with a surplus of 38 new drivers as it is currently estimated that the equivalent of 92 full time drivers will be leaving the trade over the next 12-month period. These 38 drivers represent well under half of the requisite number to allow the return to a much-needed full timetable.
At present, no train driver jobs are being advertised as there is currently a backlog of over 800 applications, which will be utilised to fill vacancies, where the issue of training time rears its ugly head again. There are hopes that 135 new drivers can be recruited over the course of the year.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, Graham Simpson said:
“These alarming figures raise questions about whether ScotRail will ever be able to bring back a reliable timetable across Scotland.
“Hard-pressed passengers have already had to pay the price for the SNP’s incompetence in recent months but this chaos doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon.
“To potentially have more than 90 drivers leaving over the next 12 months just highlights the shambolic situation ScotRail is in under Scottish Government control.
“The SNP must urgently address this driver crisis to allow ScotRail to return to a full timetable.”
Scottish Labour Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said: “The public deserve to know whether the rail chaos they are facing at the hands of the SNP is really temporary.
“Driver shortages have been causing problems for years and these damning figures suggest this is set to continue.
“Rail passengers and workers shouldn’t keep paying the price for chronic mismanagement and failed planning. The SNP need a real plan to fix this shambles so Scotland’s passengers aren’t stuck with a second-rate service for good.”
“Rail passengers and workers shouldn’t keep paying the price for chronic mismanagement and failed planning."
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