• Leading Scottish wholesaler Dunns Food and Drinks warns businesses could be forced to close during action as ScotRail cancels nearly 90% of services
  • Hospitality venues across Scotland brace for a week of disruption, with some in Edinburgh expecting a significant drop in footfall
  • Business operators warn of operational issues as staff struggle to commute into work
  • Despite widespread disruption, local hospitality venues hope to see boost in customers as commuters work from home to avoid disruption 

NATIONAL rail strikes this week represent “another blow” for Scotland’s city centres, as commuters are urged to work from home amid travel chaos.

That’s the warning from one of Scotland’s leading wholesalers Dunns Food and Drinks ahead of three days of industrial action by members of the RMT Union.

Nearly 90% of ScotRail services will be cancelled on Tuesday 21, Thursday 23 and Saturday 25 June, with city centre venues set to bear the brunt of the knock-on impact of the strikes.

It comes at an already difficult time for Scotland’s city centres, as the figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium show sales growth continued to stall last month as people cut spending amid the cost of living crisis.

Nathan Rowan, business to consumer director at Dunns Food and Drinks, believes some hospitality businesses could be forced to close during the action as staff struggle to get to work.

He said: “In general terms, the rail strikes represent yet another blow to city centres.

“A lot of the premises we supply see reasonable business up until around 8pm, however city centres are emptying rapidly and early. We have even seen reductions in our distribution vehicle weights, as city-centre venues prepare for a drop in customers this week.

“More people will be working from home on the affected days, so lunchtime trade in office areas could struggle. I wouldn’t be surprised if some even close on the days on the strike as staff will be unable to get to work.

“There are still a large number of home workers, but a reduced train timetable coupled with this week’s strikes means city centre venues will undoubtedly feel a more significant impact.”

Edinburgh-based brewers Vault City Brewing –  who operate the Wee Vault tasting room and bottleshop on Maitland Street, next to Haymarket train station – are expecting to see a drop in footfall as a direct result of the strike action.

Co-founder Steven Smith Hay said: “Because of how close Wee Vault is to the station, we usually have a fair amount of commuters popping in for a drink or picking up a bottle to go after they’ve finished work for the day. We’re really conscious of the fact we’re going to see those numbers fall this week.

“On the other hand, we’re expecting to see more people waiting for longer periods in the bar until the next available train comes along which, in turn, could mean customers spend a little more money. It really is a bit of a double-edged sword.”

Edinburgh-based Cairngorm Coffee Roasters is also expecting to see a drop in customers at the firm’s coffee shops in the city centre and the west end. However, co-owner Robi Lambie is concerned about the operational impact the strikes will have on his work force, too.

He said: “Our shop in the west end of the city is very popular with office workers, so we expect to see an impact on trade with fewer people commuting into Haymarket.

“However, we’re really going to feel the impact of these strikes firsthand when it comes to our workforce. Our recently appointed wholesale manager has been forced to find alternative transport to and from Glasgow, which is going to cause us a real headache.

“The bottom line is that although there’s a huge push to limit the amount of cars used in the capital, there’s not enough affordable and reliable alternative methods of transport for people who don’t live in the middle of the city centre.

“Without a reliable train service, I think many people will slip back into the work from home lifestyle quite comfortably, which feels like a step backwards for businesses in the hospitality industry once again.”

Despite concerns about disruption caused by the rail strikes across the country, there are hopes it could lead to a small boost in the number of customers choosing to eat out locally at lunchtime.

Ian Brooke, founder of Brawsome Bagels in the west end of Glasgow, said: “The strikes are going to be massively disruptive for everyone across the country, and of course that will have a knock-on effect for businesses.

“However, although we are close to the Partick Interchange, we usually see more people commuting out of the area than into it, so I’m hopeful we won’t see too much of an impact on trade.

“We could even see a small boost in the number of customers coming through our doors, as people who would usually leave the west end for work will be likely to stay close to home and look for lunch options here.”

Around 40,000 Network Rail staff are striking as part of a dispute over pay, working conditions and redundancies.

Passengers have been warned the disruption will likely throughout the week, as fewer staff than normal will be working overnight to get services ready.

ScotRail has advised commuters to avoid travel unless necessary. Passengers can keep up-to-date and plan ahead by visiting www.scotrail.co.uk

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