Christmas travel on Caledonian Sleeper threatened by more strikes

Christmas and New Year passengers on the Caledonian Sleeper face disruption with two 48-hour strikes which are likely to halt services.

Passenger face four more nights of strike action.
Passenger face four more nights of strike action.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has called more walkouts in its dispute over staff fatigue and rest areas from 22-24 December and 3-5 January.

These are likely to hit the last Scotland-London overnight trains before Christmas and after the New Year break.

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The RMT said there would be more strikes to come in January affecting the Serco-operated service.

The RMT want staff to be able to use cabins for rest breaks.

They follow two 48-hour strikes involved Sleeper hosts and team leaders which disrupted services last month.

Talks over a call from the union for staff to be allowed to use cabins for their rest breaks have broken down.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We have put forward a reasonable resolution to this dispute.

"However, despite the best efforts of our union representatives, it has been rejected and Serco Caledonian Sleeper continues to avoid any serious negotiation with the union.

"Management have failed to provide sufficient berths for rest periods and failed to address the fatigue our members are experiencing as a result of this.

“This dispute is about safe working conditions for our members and the only way to get management to resolve these issues immediately is by taking further industrial action.”

Serco said it would implement the recommendations of a report it commissioned from experts to address staff fatigue problems.

The study called for a “change in culture” at Caledonian Sleeper.

Author Dr Paul Jackson concluded the firm complied with health and safety laws but its “approach to fatigue management could be improved”.

The report said staff breaks should be extended beyond one hour on longer routes, rest areas improved and the working of multiple nights on end be reduced.

It stated: "Of the available options, a berth provides the best conditions for rest away from interruptions, as well as affording the best opportunity to obtain proper rest.”

John Whitehurst, Serco’s managing director for transport, said: “We remain deeply disappointed and frustrated that the RMT is taking further industrial action which will impact people trying to get home for Christmas.

“Our priority has always been the safety of everybody on board our service, guests and employees alike.

"That priority has never wavered and never will.

“Caledonian Sleeper has taken the issues that were raised very seriously, both from a safety and a fatigue perspective.

"As a result, we have been working with the Office of Rail and Road and we commissioned an independent fatigue report that was undertaken by an independent industry expert.

"We are committed to implementing the recommendations of this report and we continue to encourage our RMT representatives to join us to become part of this work.

“Caledonian Sleeper has engaged with [conciliation service] Acas at each stage of this process and we would welcome their further involvement.

"We remain fully committed to finding a resolution to the dispute and continue to be available for meaningful discussions with our employees and their union representatives.”

The Caledonian Sleeper operates six nights a week between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort William, Inverness and London.

The Aberdeen route is due to resume following the reopening of the line today with the completion of repairs after the derailment of a ScotRail train in August in which three people died.

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