The UK’s largest train operator has been heavily criticised after a decision was made to cancel all trains at the majority of stations along the south coast on the day of Brighton Pride.
Drivers represented by the ASLEF union are undertaking an overtime ban but in the past, this hasn’t stopped services from running to the city.
However, GTR, which runs Southern and Thameslink, decided to prevent trains from travelling on the mainline service over concerns that it wouldn't be able to safely transport thousands of passengers with the full Pride timetable not able to be covered by working staff.
It’s led to furious backlash from people in Brighton and beyond.
Former Hove MP Ivor Caplan Tweeted the company to say: “You GTR a pathetic organisation Your CEO should resign for a ridiculous decision without any reality. Time for you to go and stop advertising our City is fuming with your attempt to stop Pride. You should be ashamed. Response? #removethecontract.”
Maureen Dunn asked: “Why have you cancelled all trains to Brighton on Saturday 5th? Apparently public safety risk due to Brighton Pride. What public safety risk precisely? And how do you advise me to get to Brighton now?”
While Lee Douglas said: "Hugely disappointed with Southern Railway, you had a year to plan for this, and that wasn’t enough. Your service is so important to this huge yearly event, this is a huge failure on Southern.”
Organisers of Brighton Pride, which marks 50 years since the first protest march, said the campaigning and partying will continue despite the transport issues.
Southern Rail said it was “bitterly disappointed” in a statement.
Chris Fowler, Network Operations and Performance Director, GTR, said: "GTR has an extremely long-standing relationship with Pride and we are bitterly disappointed to make this unbelievably difficult decision.
“We know this will be incredibly frustrating and we’re really sorry to everyone who will be impacted, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community.
“After exploring all possible options, and following discussions with the police, emergency services and local council, we simply cannot run a safe service with enough capacity for the extraordinary number of passengers that travel to Brighton for Pride.
“We can’t in good faith bring people into Brighton that cannot get home again, potentially leaving thousands of people stranded – safety must come first.”
Trains running from London towards Brighton will terminate at Three Bridges, or be redirected by Horsham towards Barnham.
From Angmering to Balcombe, Ashford International and everywhere in-between there won’t be trains running at many stations until Sunday.
The union which represents drivers attacked the rail operator. David Jones, chair of ASLEF’s LGBT+ Representatives’ Committee, said,
“Train drivers who are members of ASLEF are currently involved in a ban on overtime across 15 companies in our dispute over pay and conditions.
“Despite running trains to Brighton throughout previous overtime restrictions, GTR has announced that it will not be running trains to Brighton on Saturday 5 August, the day of Brighton Pride, claiming the overtime ban is the reason.
“This is a deliberate and vindictive move by GTR, using misinformation, in a direct attack on the LGBT+ community not only in Brighton, but in Britain; blaming train drivers for its own failings in resourcing a robust service without relying on staff working overtime.
“No amount of painting rainbows on trains will detract from this cynical move, typical of the train operating companies during the current dispute.”
Southern and Thameslink confirmed they had looked into other options such as replacement busses but enough could not be secured.
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