Rail Travel (Safety)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 28 March 2024.

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Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

1. I remind members of my convenership of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers parliamentary group.

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to ensure that rail travel is safe. (S6O-03276)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Passenger and staff safety is paramount and is enforced by the British Transport Police, which works in partnership with ScotRail, Network Rail and passenger stakeholders to ensure that all passengers have safe and comfortable journeys. An example of that is British Transport Police’s partnership with ScotRail’s travel safe team, which has led to a reduction in antisocial behaviour on Scotland’s rail network. ScotRail advises that its travel safe team has grown from eight to 24 travel safe officers, following the success of the team.

ScotRail and the British Transport Police have put a range of measures in place, on trains and in stations, with the aim of providing confidence among the travelling public and rail staff that the railway is safe and secure for all.

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

In

2016, ScotRail and the RMT reached an agreement that, on routes such as Barrhead and East Kilbride, services would be guaranteed a conductor on every new electrified train. It was guaranteed that the conductor would retain their full safety competency, including rules, track safety, evacuation and dispatch, and that trains operating those services would not run without a competent conductor on board.

Now, ScotRail, in public ownership, with the Government as the sole shareholder, is proposing to rip that agreement up, denying equal access to those services for passengers with disabilities and jeopardising safety for all. These are not operational matters—they are equality matters; they are safety matters. Will the cabinet secretary intervene?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The member may not be aware, but there have been developments in the past 24 hours on that issue. It is not for me to express what those developments are—that will be for the employer and the trade union. The Scottish Government continues to specify a requirement that all ScotRail services should have a second staff member on board to assist passengers, and I will continue to underline that.

As regards the reference to 2016, that may be subject to the on-going discussions, which I hope will continue to take place.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There are a number of supplementary questions. I want to get them all in, but they will need to be brief, as will the responses.

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

Safety of the railway remains a reserved matter, but the Government has fully funded Network Rail Scotland in line with the Office of Rail and Road’s recommendations. Does the cabinet secretary therefore share my view that Labour should not be undermining our rail sector, and the societal and environmental benefits that it offers, by inferring that it is unsafe?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

R ail safety is reserved to the UK Government and the ORR. We are fully funding the ORR’s recommendations, with an increase of £450 million in cash terms. We are leading the way on a joined-up railway. That is evidenced by the fact that the United Kingdom Department for Transport has headhunted Scotland’s Railway’s managing director to help it to catch up.

It is important that we have full devolution of rail powers to Scotland to enable us to deliver a railway that truly benefits Scotland. Anyone with a genuine interest in that should get behind those calls, whatever the result of the next UK general election.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

Surely, if there are developments on the issue, the cabinet secretary should tell us what they are. After all, she is the Cabinet Secretary for Transport. Will those developments please the RMT?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

It is with respect to the RMT that I am not relaying what it told me this morning. I had a meeting with the rail unions, and I understand that there may be movement on the issue.

Currently, there is, as there has been for a considerable time, the successful operation on the electric railways of ScotRail drivers supported by ticket examiners. That has been happening for some time on many rail routes. The issue between the employer and the trade union is for them to determine, and it would not be appropriate for me to comment, bearing in mind the sensitivities and that I have just met the union and heard news this morning. That is for the RMT to disclose, and it is with respect to it that I am not making any further comment.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

T he cabinet secretary will be aware that the Fife circle, for example, tends to get trains that others have passed on to it. Is there a replacement train programme in place for areas such as Fife with high-speed trains?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The replacement of the rail fleet is a priority for the Scottish Government. It is clear that the more we electrify, the more trains will be released that can support the current Fife system. However, I am also conscious of the need to develop the decarbonised Fife route.

In the meantime, maintenance is really important. The recruitment of an additional 20 to 40 engineers has been helping the network generally, and Fife in particular. Alex Rowley is probably more interested in the longer term. I will keep him apprised of that.