He contacted all three of the city’s MPs with concerns about the impact the ongoing rail dispute will have on fans and the club. He’s right to be worried, as the level of disruption the train chaos has caused has been immense, both on people commuting to and from the city, and those looking to visit. Apart from the personal costs, there’s an economic impact on the city that’s difficult to measure but, needless to say, it’s significant, and increasing daily.
The consequences for football fans travelling to games at the Amex is something I’ve already taken up with Charles Horton, Chief Executive at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). I’ve copied my email to him below, along with the disappointing response I received from GTR. I have forwarded a copy of the response on to Martin Perry to make him aware.
Since the dispute began, I’ve repeatedly contacted the successive Secretary of States for Transport, and I will go back to Chris Grayling MP to highlight the concerns that Martin Perry expresses in his email.
I’ve been working alongside Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, to challenge those responsible to bring this dispute to an end, and I will continue to do everything in my power to make that happen. With football matches taking place imminently, and the economic benefit they bring to the city being compromised, in addition to the financial impact the situation is having on other businesses in the city, enough is enough. The disruption to major events taking place in Brighton and Hove simply reinforces the need to strip GTR of the franchise.
I fear that passenger safety is also needlessly being put at risk, my earlier letter to the Minister on this is online here.
Response from GTR – received 5th August:
Charles asked me to follow up on your email about rail provision for the football matches at Brighton & Hove Albion next week.
We work closely with the club and third party agencies, such as the BTP, on the crowd management for fans coming through Brighton and Falmer stations and we typically provide enhanced services before and after the match – with additional trains and extra coaches. Naturally these services are very busy, as are the stations, but the systems in place safely manage the numbers.
Next week, given the RMT strike action, it is regrettable that we will not be running along the East Coastway from Brighton after 1815, and therefore we cannot support the club as we typically would. Given the timing of the matches we have confirmed that the last three services next week (after 1700) will not be stopping at Falmer station on match days and the club is advising fans to travel by other means. It is also arranging additional buses and park & ride facilities (and we have offered the use of our car park at Lewes station to assist this).
I am sorry that I can’t provide more positive news about the service next week but with the strike going ahead we are unfortunately left with no other choice.
My email to Charles Horton at GTR – sent on 3rd August:
I have written previously about capacity issues on Southern trains and now have a specific and urgent concern regarding travel by rail to matches at the Amex football stadium.
As you may know, two important matches for our local team Brighton and Hove Albion are scheduled for next week – the first home game in the League Cup on Tuesday 9th and the first home championship game on the 12th. Given the ongoing rail crisis, and now the possibility of industrial action, I am very concerned about the chaos that inadequate travel provision could bring, and urge you to intervene to prevent this and to do what you can to help with travel to and from the stadium station at Falmer.
Rail problems at Falmer station are not necessarily new. One constituent wrote to me recently:
“Last season I arrived at Brighton Station for an evening game well over an hour before kick-off. One train was cancelled, the next train had THREE carriages, the next TWO carriages. The queue tailed back to beyond the taxi rank. A lot of people missed kick-off and frustration was building, passengers were unable to get on at London Road and so on. This wasn’t a one-off.
The Albion are playing to an average 25,000 attendance, when they are eventually promoted to the Premier League it will rise to 30,000 and most people are obliged to use the train. I understand Brighton & Hove Albion pay an upfront travel subsidy to Southern. Two and three carriage trains are simply not adequate to transfer such a volume of people in a short space of time.”
Please would you confirm whether it is the case that the football club pays a travel subsidy to Southern, and whether this will be returned to the club immediately if Southern is not going to provide a service next week, thereby enabling the club to at least have that resource to use towards alternative provision. I would also welcome your comments on the length of trains as referred to above.
Further, Brighton and Hove local paper ‘The Argus’ reported the following last week:
“A spokesman for Govia said that the operator had ‘no idea’ what services would be provided during the strike, pointing out that contingency conductors drafted in during previous strike could not be relied upon to provide cover during such a lengthy stoppage.
The company could not guarantee that any special services would be provided to or from Falmer for the Albion matches.”
This report may not be entirely accurate and I would welcome your thoughts on this matter. Even without the possibility of an industrial dispute, the service through Falmer station has been extremely problematic, as the constituent’s words above illustrate, and I’m sure you would agree that GTR has some responsibility in ensuring that travel to and from Falmer station takes place as safely and as smoothly as possible.
Caroline Lucas MP