Grant Shapps was urged to find the “political will” to end the rail dispute, causing mass disruptions across the network as ScotRail bosses warned travelers that services will be affected by Sunday.
Jenny Gilruth, Scotland’s transport minister, wrote to Shapps urging it to “seek a resolution to this dispute as soon as possible” as industrial action began on Tuesday.
About 40,000 rail workers from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are participating in strikes over a pay dispute with Network Rail and some Department of Transport rail operator companies.
Millions of people have been affected by the cancellation of 80% of UK rail services. Further actions should be taken on Thursday and Saturday of this week.
Scotland has only five ScotRail services running on the affected days: two trains per hour on the Edinburgh to Glasgow line via Falkirk High, the Edinburgh-Bathgate line, the Glasgow line to Hamilton/Larkhall and the Glasgow line to Lanark, and an hourly train on service from Edinburgh to Glasgow via Shotts.
There was a reported increase in traffic congestion on Tuesday as travelers took to the roads.
In his letter to the Transport Secretary, Gilruth said the efforts of the railway team during the pandemic should be recognized.
“Now is the time to recognize these efforts, not punish workers,” she wrote, adding that the Scottish government “will not support any reform that seeks to impose compulsory redundancies.”
It was said: “Network Rail workers in Scotland and across the GB rail network have not received a pay raise in over two years. I am sure you will agree that this is not an acceptable or tenable position.”
Mid Fife and Glenrothes MSP also reiterated the Scottish government’s calls for a full devolution of railway powers, before telling Shapps: “A resolution to this dispute is possible, but you will need to inject the political will which, so far, has clearly missing.”
This came as ScotRail warned that the outage will continue until Sunday.
The rail operator said: “While the large signaling centers in Yoker, West Scotland and Edinburgh may operate from 0715, this will not be the case at manual boxes elsewhere and it may be in the early afternoon before many routes can to function normally.
“This is particularly the case for routes outside the Central Belt.”
Several shows taking place in Scotland this week are expected to be impacted by the last train interruptions and schedules, including the Eagles show on Wednesday at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh and Liam Gallagher at Hampden Stadium in Glasgow on Sunday.
Biffy Clyro will headline at the Royal Highland Center in Edinburgh on Saturday, Barry Manilow’s show at the Hydro in Glasgow and Phoebe Bridgers’ show at Barrowlands – both on Thursday – will also be affected.
Only a handful of passengers waited for trains at Queen Street Station and Glasgow Central Station on Tuesday.
Scott Dallas, 28, of Kirkintilloch, told the PA news agency that getting to Glasgow Queen Street was not too difficult, but that he will later have to leave his destination early.
He said: “I usually take the train from Lenzie, but I went to Croy today so it wasn’t too bad.
“The problem is that tonight I have to leave early because I think the last train is at 6pm, so I just have to make sure I get there on time because I’m going to a conference today at the University of Glasgow.
“It’s a little painful, but it could be worse.
“If I hadn’t had to come to this conference today, I probably would have stayed home and worked from home.”
Gav Nsay, 28, from Glasgow, said the strike had interrupted his plans to take the train to Edinburgh with his friend who was unable to travel to meet him.
He said: “I should go to Edinburgh with my friend. Unfortunately we couldn’t go to Edinburgh because he can’t take the train from where he comes to Glasgow. This will have a big effect on our going to Edinburgh.”
Nsay said that if his friend manages to get into Glasgow, they might end up traveling to Edinburgh by bus or taxi.
The transport secretary said on Tuesday that laws to allow flexible workers, including agency workers, to cover those on strike could be introduced within months.
He told LBC radio: “We are going to change the law to ensure that there can be a lot more flexibility, the law that is sometimes called agency is actually more about transferability.
“This kind of modernization can be achieved, if we don’t get agreement with the unions, changing the law. And we’re going to change the law quickly in the next month or two to make sure transferable skills are allowed.”