People planning on travelling to Brighton Pride this weekend could face queues for trains and delays of several hours on Southern Rail services.
One of the London-to-Brighton lines is operated by the much-criticised rail company, which came in for a hammering earlier this year after this year after cancelling 350 daily services due to infrastructure problems and an industrial dispute with union workers.
Ahead of this weekend’s Brighton Pride celebrations, Southern Rail has warned of service disruption due to “continuing train crew shortages”, engineering works and the “large attendance expected at Pride”.
Southern warned that some services may be cancelled with a further-reduced service over the weekend, both to and from Brighton.
It warned that a queuing system will be in place for those returning to London, and that customers “should expect long waiting times before they can board a train home”.
But Pride organisers said that the issues with Southern would not have a great impact on the event, as other rail services serving Brighton are still operating as normal.
A spokesperson for Brighton Pride told PinkNews: “After many planning meetings with Southern, the Sussex Police and other agencies throughout the year, we are disappointed at the negative tone of this press release [from Southern].
“We were under the impression that additional services and contingency plans were in place by Southern and over a week ago we were given reassurance by them that they would provide the best possible service for visitors in to the city and they would treat it as a priority.
“Pride continues to remain neutral in the dispute Southern have with the RMT and indeed Mick Cash the General Secretary of the RMT has given us a message of support and solidarity from the union who will be marching in the Pride parade on Saturday.
“Obviously Southern are not the only rail operator in to Brighton.
“Thameslink trains run at least twice hourly from London’s St Pancras and Blackfriars stations, National Express run regular coaches from London Victoria and we understand that Gatwick Express trains are running normally from London Victoria.”
Southern’s Brighton Area Manager Paul Wyborn blamed rail union workers for the disruption, saying: “The industrial action and the dispute with the RMT is continuing to cause misery to people’s lives.
“For our part, we’re sorry that we are unable to provide a full service that meets our passengers’ expectations.
“We’ll do the best we can with the resources we have available but the trains that do run will be exceptionally busy.
“That’s why we are regrettably advising people to try and find another way of getting in and out of Brighton to beat the crowds and unavoidable queues.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has previously called for Govia Thameslink to be stripped of its Southern franchise, with inner suburban rail services handed to the publicly-owned Transport for London.