Thousands of people traveling to and from Brighton Pride are expected to face major disruption after train services were cancelled.
Trains to and from the city will not run on Saturday August 5 – the main day of the UK’s biggest LGBTQ+ event.
Paul Kemp, chief executive of Pride, said the decision was “truly devastating news for everyone”.
He said: “Many Pride visitors have already booked and paid for Saturday night accommodation locally.
“Now they will have to change their plans or find another way to enter the city.”
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said it was with a ‘heavy heart’ that Brighton services would not run for Pride due to an overtime ban meaning they cannot provide trains additional.
But Aslef, the train drivers’ union behind the week-long overtime ban for its members, says GTR has only to blame itself for not employing enough of drivers.
GTR said in a statement: “This has been an extremely difficult decision to make due to the major impact it will have on anyone considering attending Pride, which GTR has proudly supported for many years.”
“Unfortunately, between July 31 and August 5, train operators were notified of an overtime ban by the Aslef union. During this period, GTR will offer a modified schedule with significantly fewer services than usual.
“As a result, there will be far less capacity than needed for people to travel safely on Pride’s busiest day – Saturday August 5. Friday August 4th and Sunday August 6th will have services.
“Each year GTR offers a significantly improved service for Pride with additional overnight trains on Saturday evenings.
“These improvements are needed to safely transport the large number of people traveling to Brighton on the busiest day of Pride, but also home after the popular Saturday Community Parade and Fabuloso fundraiser in Preston Park. .
“Normally these extra services are covered by volunteer overtime drivers and without the extra late night services that we need there is a clear risk of stranding tens of thousands of people overnight without accommodation.
“On Saturday evenings, there is always a massive demand for short-term return journeys, with a capacity shortfall of 20,000 passengers expected at the peak evening hours alone.
“Ensuring the safety of passengers and colleagues is the top priority and, following discussions with the council, police and emergency services, as well as our own risk assessments, GTR has unfortunately concluded that it cannot cannot perform any service safely as it would be impossible to avoid significant overcrowding and pose a considerable risk to passenger safety.
“This means that passengers will not be able to use rail services to enter or leave Brighton on Saturday August 5 and anyone planning to attend Pride on that day will unfortunately have to make other arrangements. Friday August 4th and Sunday August 6th are not affected.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said: ‘It is outrageous and utterly ridiculous to try to blame Aslef for problems wholly attributable to this railway company.
“The simple fact is that this company does not employ enough drivers to provide the services it has promised to passengers, businesses and the Department of Transport which it will lead. That’s why he depends on drivers working overtime.
“Overtime, of course, is completely voluntary, not mandatory, and the drivers aren’t working overtime because they’re in a dispute with a company that hasn’t given them a raise in four years. since 2019, although the cost of living, as we all know, has skyrocketed during this time, into double digits.
“GTR knows the date of Brighton Pride and its inability to employ enough drivers to provide the services it should for a very long time.
“Yet they are only running trains to Three Bridges, just three quarters of the way, in a deliberate and malicious attempt to disrupt LGBT+ day and then blame Aslef for his own overt failures.
‘It’s under contempt. The company should do the right thing, give our members, their drivers, the pay raise they deserve and give the people of Brighton the rail service they need.
“Not just on Brighton Pride Saturday, but every day of every week and for the rest of this year.”
Chris Fowler, Director of Network Operations and Performance, GTR, said: “GTR has a very long-standing relationship with Pride and we are bitterly disappointed to make this incredibly difficult decision.
“We know this will be incredibly frustrating and we are truly sorry for everyone who will be affected, especially 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 sufficient capacity for the extraordinary number of passengers traveling at Brighton for Pride.
“We cannot in good faith bring people to Brighton who cannot return home, potentially leaving thousands stranded – safety must come first.
“We hope that by making this decision now, it will give people time to plan other options and we hope to be back supporting Pride with full services for the whole weekend next year.”
Contact our press team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more stories like this, check out our news page.
Get breaking news, wellness stories, analysis and more