PASSENGERS are facing severe disruption across Scotland’s railways due to fresh strikes by thousands of workers in the row over jobs, pay and conditions.

Industrial action by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail began on Wednesday morning, with just five services running across the country.

A limited number of trains are running on key routes between Glasgow and Edinburgh; Edinburgh and Bathgate; Glasgow and Hamilton/Larkhall; and Glasgow and Lanark.

Picket lines are being mounted outside railway stations across Scotland, including at Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley, and at depots.

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A protest is planned outside Network Rail’s head office in Glasgow.

ScotRail has urged passengers to check their journeys before travelling and only do so if necessary.

Trains are expected to be disrupted on Thursday morning as well, with a later start to services as employees return to duties.

In Edinburgh, RMT members gathered outside Waverley train station chanting “solidarity” and “workers united”.

Union member Mike Hogg said: “The purpose in the picket line today is to demonstrate to all concerned within the society that rail workers are on strike demanding a pay increase because rail workers have not had a pay increase for the last three years.

“I don’t think it’s been unreasonable to request a pay increase.

“What we are getting from Network Rail and the Government is an attack on terms and conditions and a resounding no to a pay increase.”

Also speaking in the city, Alan, a train guard who did not wish to give his surname, said: “We’re all about customers first, safety first.

“We are on strike to save our conditions and the passengers conditions.

“Without half the caterers, lots of who are striking, there wouldn’t be that working presence for passengers.”

READ MORE: Rail strikers removed from Glasgow Central station by police amid noisy protest

Scottish Greens MSP Ariane Burgess added: “I absolutely wanted to come out and support the picket line.

“The cost-of-living crisis is putting pressure on a lot of people and I think it’s absolutely right the rail workers are paid properly for the work they do in Scotland.”

Meanwhile appearing on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, Scotland’s transport minister said the UK Government needs to “inject the political willing” to resolve disputes across the rail network – but she insisted there is a distinction between the current strikes and the action taken by ScotRail staff in the last few weeks.

Jenny Gilruth said it is “vitally important” for all parties to work together to find a resolution.

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But she said the Department for Transport’s stance – that it is not the job of UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to resolve the problem himself – is “interesting”.

Gilruth said: “You will recall that I was repeatedly called upon by opposition members, including those in the Conservative Party, to involve myself directly in the dispute that we’ve had in Scotland.

“I think it is important to draw a distinction between the dispute in Scotland, which was resolved and we have reinstated the full timetable in Scotland.

“That was done amicably and with respect on both sides, and what we’ve seen in the UK-wide dispute seems to be quite a different approach in the UK Government with some belligerence from the UK Government.

“It’s vitally important now that Grant Shapps instructs Network Rail and the train operating companies to get back around the negotiating table with the trade unions, which is exactly what I did with ScotRail in the most recent dispute, so that we can get to that resolution to reinstate full services and to avoid any further strikes.”

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said despite the organisation's "efforts", the strikes would be going ahead. 

"I’m afraid there will be more disruption for passengers this week as the RMT seems hell-bent on continuing their political campaigning, rather than compromising and agreeing a deal for their members," he said.

READ MORE: Labour shadow minister Sam Tarry defies Keir Starmer's order to stay away from picket lines

“I can only apologise for the impact this pointless strike will have on passengers, especially those travelling for holidays or attending events such as the Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final (Wednesday) and the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games (Thursday)."

Strikes were held in June, and more are planned next month, with little sign of a breakthrough to the deadlocked dispute.

Members of the RMT and TSSA will strike on August 18 and 20, with the co-ordinated action set to cause travel chaos.