Union calls on @ScotGov to take control of Scotland’s only train repairs depot threatened with closure

Ben Wray

200 jobs at risk at Scotland’s only depot for the repair and maintenance of rail stock

  • Scotland’s only train repairs and maintenance depot to be closed
  • 200 jobs expected to be lost along with the strategic asset
  • Unite union calls for immediate Scottish Government control of facility citing Prestwick airport as precedent

UNITE the union has called upon the Scottish Government to make an “immediate intervention” to take control of the only depot for the maintenance of Scotland’s trains.

The closure of the Springburn depot (known as the Caley) could threaten around 200 directly and indirectly employed workers at the Glasgow site.

Gemini Rail Services, which owns the Springburn depot, has said the closure, after a 45 day consultation period, is made necessary due to a decline in the circulation of the old rolling stock serviced at the facility.

Unite, which represents workers at the depot, warned that the closure would be a loss of a key part of Scotland’s rail infrastructure, claiming no other facility was equipped to carry on its work and Scotland’s rolling stock would need to be transported to and from England for repairs. The Scottish Government stated that there was “sufficient capacity at other Scottish locations”.

Pat McIlvogue, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “Unite has launched our campaign to save the Springburn depot ‘Rally Roon the Caley’ and we believe viable solutions are on the table. The reality is that we now have 45 days to save the depot as a result of Gemini’s utterly disgraceful behaviour of ignoring calls by both the Scottish and UK Governments, and most importantly the workforce, for more time. We now require immediate intervention to support the electrification of the depot and for it to be brought under the control of the Scottish Government.”

“The union’s plan is feasible and the Prestwick airport example sets a precedent. The Springburn depot not only has a proud past but it can play a strategic role in the nation’s transport infrastructure for years to come. We recognise that Gemini’s decision has put the Scottish Government in this position, but ultimately it now has a decision to make either to support our plan or lose the depot in 45 days time.”

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The news will raise fresh concerns not only for the workers but for commuters, who have borne the brunt of repeated failures of the rail services in recent years, with a rise in service cancellations of 59 per cent in the financial year 2017/18, and an overcrowding increase of 27 per cent.

Scotrail, owned by Dutch corporation Abellio, was contacted and asked to make a statement on the Unions demands, but declined to comment.

Network Rail is the UK wide publicly owned company that controls rail infrastructure in Scotland.

Speaking to CommonSpace Nick Fitzwater, Managing Director of Gemini Rail Services, said: “Following our initial announcement in December, Gemini Rail Services can confirm it has entered a consultation process with employees over a proposal to close its site in Springburn, Glasgow. Employees have been informed of the consultation process, and we will now hold detailed discussions with them and their representatives, both collectively and individually.

“As we have stated, the decision to put forward the proposal has in no way been taken lightly and we know it is a worrying time for the workforce. The proposal has been made against a backdrop of increasingly challenging market conditions which are outside of our control and severely affect our core business of maintaining pre-privatisation rolling stock.

“Springburn will continue to suffer a major decline in work due to its location and the section of the market it serves.

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“This market downturn has been evident for many years, and despite the efforts of management to explore avenues to improve the situation, and the hard work and dedication of the workforce to deliver on contracts won by the company, the company is suffering unsustainable losses.

“Gemini Rail Services management has worked to engage with several key stakeholders, including industry experts, unions and politicians, to openly discuss the adverse market forces affecting Springburn and to explore all viable alternative options for the site. This engagement is ongoing.”

However, Unite argue that the site can be protected through Scottish Government control and investment for on-site electrification and connection to Glasgow and Edinburgh rail line, a development that it costs at around £1 million and says is easily affordable through infrastructure investment funds. The Scottish Government has received £4.8 billion for Rail Infrastructure investment from the UK Government.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that Gemini Rail Services has now commenced the consultation to close the facility. The Cabinet Secretary is meeting with the owners tomorrow [23 January] and will use this opportunity to reinforce the importance of this facility at Springburn.  Meanwhile, we continue to work with rail industry partners, the unions, the workforce and Gemini to explore all options to prevent this closure and to support affected staff.

“The Scottish Government remains committed to supporting rail services in Scotland and has made record investment in the sector in recent years, including new rolling stock and improved infrastructure. There is sufficient capacity at other Scottish locations, including ScotRail’s own depots, to continue to service our fleets.”

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