South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Colin Smyth has echoed concerns from transport unions that plans to increase rail services during the Covid-19 pandemic have not received enough planning.

Rail unions RMT, TSSA and ASLEF have written to the Scottish Government warning that the plans send mixed messages to people in South Scotland about social distancing rules, and adequate safety measures have not been properly considered.

The government’s current lockdown advice is for people to stay home to help save lives, while only key workers are cleared to travel.

Due to this, train service use has fallen considerably – something unions say has helped to contain the pandemic in Scotland.

Increasing rail services is likely to give the impression that lockdown travel restrictions have eased, going against the Scottish Government’s official and unchanged advice.

Colin Smyth, alongside the rail unions, is also concerned that there are no published plans on how to increase rail services safely.

Both workers and passengers must continue to be protected by social distancing, appropriate PPE and the clarity over what is essential work or travel.

Colin Smyth said: “Union representatives have made it extremely clear that they are not convinced that there is any basis at the moment to extend or increase services.

“The Scottish Government has a duty of care to all essential workers during this crisis, and conflicting messages will have a serious impact on both passenger and rail staff safety.

“We are all frustrated by the current lockdown, and we are all eagerly anticipating a return to normality – but we cannot start to do that prematurely.

“There are still no answers from Government on how they will implement and enforce social distancing to keep people safe on trains and buses as passenger numbers rise.

“Lives are still at risk in the South of Scotland, and may continue to be for quite some time if we do not take the right steps now to contain the spread of the virus.

“I am urging the government to work with unions to make sure these plans are in the interest of staff and passengers, and that they aren’t implemented before it is safe to do so.”

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