COUNTY NEWS: '˜Call off Southern Rail strikes affecting Brighton Pride

The organisers of Brighton and Hove Pride have called for rail unions to drop strike action that could affect this year's event.

BRIGHTON PRIDE 2016 SUS-160808-092852001
BRIGHTON PRIDE 2016 SUS-160808-092852001

One of the city’s most anticipated events is due to start on Friday August 4, but currently train drivers’ union ASLEF and the RMT union have both organised walkouts on that day.

Govia Thameslink Railway will run longer Thameslink trains to and from Brighton during the Pride celebrations, but the event will still be affected if ASLEF’s strike goes ahead.

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Paul Kemp, of Brighton and Hove Pride, said: “It’s a real concern that ASLEF and RMT are taking this action when people from all over the UK and the world are planning to visit Brighton and Hove for Pride, and to join our campaign to Stand Up To Hate Crime.

“Pride works throughout the year on planning with all public service agencies to deliver a safe event and I wrote to all parties involved in this dispute in May 2017 appealing for support over the Pride weekend. I’m appealing again for the unions to support their LGBT and minority allies and not to take this industrial action on the eve of Pride on Friday August 4th.

“The Pride weekend is a critical time for Pride’s community fundraising for local LGBT and HIV groups and charities, many of whom are struggling to continue providing their services following cuts to public funding. In the current climate of uncertainty it’s so important that we all come together to celebrate the great diversity of our city and stand up to all hate crime.”

Services are expected to be extremely busy during the event and queuing systems may be in place, so everyone is being asked to allow extra time to travel, especially at peak times.

Southern advise visitors to check before they travel in case there are any short-notice alterations owing to disruption.

ASLEF are holding striking on Tuesday August 1, Wednesday August 2, and Friday August 4 in a dispute over pay.

It also implemented a ban on overtime, which is affecting Southern services throughout the week.

Angie Doll, Southern’s Passenger Services Director, said: “ASLEF has called three days of strikes in a deliberate move to cause maximum disruption for passengers. We’re deeply disappointed that it has chosen the week of Brighton and Hove Pride. We have been working very closely with the organisers to ensure that this year’s event is a resounding success despite the industrial action.

“We will make it our priority to run as many services to Brighton as we can.

“For ASLEF to be striking in protest against an offer to increase pay by 24 per cent is simply breath-taking. The vast majority of our passengers could only dream of such a generous pay award, so will understandably be as shocked and frustrated as we are.

“We absolutely need to modernise in order to increase capacity here on the most congested part of the UK’s network, where passenger numbers have doubled in as little as 12 years. That requires modernisation of infrastructure, trains and working practices. The trade unions must join us in that endeavour.”

When the strike was announced last week, Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, said: “Now is the time for Chris Grayling and the Department for Transport to step in and assist in finding a resolution to a problem they caused.”