SCOTRAIL is to slash 700 weekday services as it struggles with a driver shortage, it has emerged.

The recently nationalised rail service is indefinitely cutting the services – accounting for about a third of trains from Monday-Friday.

Meanwhile, Saturday and Sunday services will operate at about 67% of normal capacity.

A “significant” number of drivers are not working overtime at the moment as they have rejected a 2.2% pay rise offer, leading to the staff shortage.

Following Wednesday’s announcement from ScotRail, it has been confirmed that union Aslef will be balloting members for strike action.

Joanna Macguire, chief operating officer of ScotRail, said: “As of next week, we plan to reduce our timetable to around 70%.

"We want to deliver 70% of our services very well.

"Due to the ... withdrawal of rest day working by some colleagues, we have no option but to move to the reduced timetable and to be confident that we can deliver it well.”

Macguire said ScotRail was “not in any way trying to be disruptive or punitive towards or staff”.

Meanwhile Chris Gibb, chief executive of Scottish Rail Holdings, insisted that there’s enough drivers going through training to provide a full timetable in the future. However, no specific date was provided.

“As drivers become competent, we will reinstate services as necessary in the coming weeks and months,” he insisted.

Aslef Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay called for the Scottish Government to allow negotiations to take place in a “fair and open manner”.

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“These cuts will have a devastating effect on passengers and their confidence in our railway,” he said.

"It’s industrial vandalism by the Scottish Government.”

In a statement to customers, ScotRail said: “We want to resolve this dispute with the trade unions and move forward together to provide the safest, greenest, and most reliable railway we can for Scotland.

“In the meantime, we’re asking customers to check your journey as your train times may have changed.”

You can check whether your journey is affected here.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth (below) was challenged on the announcement in the Scottish Parliament.

The National:

She was asked about discussions held between the Scottish Government and ScotRail regarding services returning to pre-pandemic levels.

She told the Chamber the rail operator will keep its timetable under review.

But Russell Findlay, who lodged the question, said: “Nearly one third of their services will be cut. That’s 600 daily services across Scotland.

“At this rate they will have more ferries than trains.

“This will cause absolute misery for passengers up and down the country."

He asked Gilruth who she feels is responsible for a “calamitous chapter” for rail in Scotland.

The Transport Minister said she does not agree with the characterisation of the Scottish Government’s handling of public ownership of ScotRail.

The National:

Gilruth said Wednesday’s announcement by ScotRail was down to the fact that some drivers “did not take up the option of overtime and rest day working” following the decision from drivers’ union Aslef to ballot for industrial action over pay.

She told MSPs the revised timetable would give a “more stable and reliable service” to passengers.

Gilruth also called on trade unions who campaigned for public ownership to “come back to the table” to negotiate an agreement.

Tory transport spokesman Graham Simpson said the move was “damning, but not surprising”.