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3-day Rail strike next week said to ‘cut off’ north of Scotland

Next week’s three-day rail strike will cut off communities outside of central Scotland, business leaders have warned.

ScotRail faces having to cancel more than 90% of services if the planned strike by signal workers goes ahead.

It will only operate a very limited service on five routes – all of them in the central belt.

Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce called for “lifeline” morning and evening services elsewhere in the country.

But Network Rail said signal staff could not be moved around at short notice.

Members of the RMT union working for Network Rail are due to take action next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday that will impact on services across the UK.

Fergus Mutch, of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland that city centre footfall would suffer if there were no trains, meaning lost revenue for shops and bars.

“If there’s no trains we’re scuppered,” he said. “It’s going to be an absolute disaster.

“We have had severe disruption for several weeks now, off the back of the most miserable couple of years, it’s going to hit the north east economy hard.

“It’s going to be a nightmare for business travellers, for those going to and from work, for people travelling for leisure, at the start of the peak of Scotland’s tourist season, visitors to this country flooding in, restricted services or non-existent services.

“Aberdeen is being completely cut off. We think that is completely unacceptable. At the very least we want to see a morning and evening lifeline service operating on the east coast. We are going to be making representations.”

He added: “The oil industry is not just an Aberdeen sector, it’s Scotland-wide, it’s UK-wide, people need to get to their place of work.”

Jo De Sylva, chairwoman of Visit Inverness, described the situation as “incredibly devastating”.

She said: “Inverness and surrounding areas are very much dependent on tourism at this time of year. It’s been a dreadful year and we are just starting to see the tourists coming back.

“Up here the tourists are the lifeblood of so many businesses.

“It’s not just the fact these trains are not running, it’s the perception that we’re not reachable. The Highlands is a huge place, it’s the size of Belgium.

“We were thinking we were almost there, getting back to some sort of normality, so many businesses are clinging on by their teeth.”

ScotRail’s service delivery director David Simpson said passengers should also expect significant disruption to services on the days between strike action.

He added: “On the five routes where we are able to operate a very limited service on strike days, we’re advising customers to seek alternative means of transport and to only travel if they really need to.”

Nick King, from Network Rail, said they were still keen to avert strike action.

Asked about disruption north of the central belt, he said signalling was a very complex role, and staff could not be moved around at short notice.

The RMT union has said that its members had been subject to pay freezes, threats to jobs and attacks on their terms and conditions, and that it was open to meaningful negotiations.

The action is separate to the dispute between ScotRail and the Aslef union, which has seen hundreds of trains cancelled each day after many drivers opted not to work overtime.

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