RAIL bosses today said festive strikes were a "clear attack" on the travelling public in Scotland at Christmas, as well as shoppers and people heading home from England.

ScotRail warned two 24-hour strike dates were designed to extend disruption over four days by targeting Caledonian Sleepers to and from London on the weekend before Christmas as well as services in Scotland on Christmas Eve.

As reported in later editions of last night's Evening Times, ScotRail members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union workers are to stage two 24-hour strikes in a dispute over the sacking of a worker.

They will walk out on December 22 and again two days later.

Union members on the firm's sleepers will also strike for 24 hours from the evening of December 21 and again from the evening of December 23.

The union said the action was in support of Scott Lewis, who the RMT claimed had been dismissed "for trying to help a member of the public buy the correct ticket".

A Scotrail spokesman said: "This reeks of selfishness, designed to give those on strike extra time off and full wages while having the maximum impact on the travelling public in the run-up to Christmas.

"It also appears mercenary and opportunistic to choose times when families and friends will be travelling for festive reunions - and many others still have to get to and from work.

"The union should immediately call a halt to this cynically timed and unjustified strike, especially when only 24% of its members voted for such action."

Meanwhile, the bill for taxpayers from the West Coast rail franchise fiasco could grow.

The public already faces paying out about £49million following the scrapping of the West Coast bidding process over Department for Transport faults.

When MPs asked the DfT's secretary Philip Rutnam if there would be further calls on the public purse, he said: "I can't say there won't be."