An extended period of Brighton’s isolation via rail could see business halved at the city’s Palace Pier, says its chief executive.
Business representatives of the Brighton and Hove Tourism Alliance – including executives from Brighton Pier and the i360 – had sat down with management from Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway last month,with the attractions’ lobby hoping to minimise the levels of business disruption incurred by reduced access to the city. But attempts at mediation failed to get rail staff to amend their planned schedule of 15 upcoming weekend shut-downs, or convince them to provide any contingency other than a snail’s-pace replacement bus service.
For her part, Brighton pier CEO and Brighton business group leader Anne Ackford was left mortified.
“Our business drops by 40 to 50 per cent when there are replacement bus services instead of trains, she told the Brighton Argus. “The amount of money that represents,no business can sustain.”
The maintenance work is slated to carry on through to May next year – and will even include a nine-day stint in February during school half-term.
A spokeswoman for Govia – which operates local network Southern Rail – said that the company had run a “massive” information campaign detailing the timing of the closures.
“In the long run this will help,”said Farzana Hakim. “It’s going to be short-term pain but customers will begin to feel the benefits eventually, as will businesses.”
But Ackford responded by saying that the network had only recently started posting notices of the disruptions.
“It is too late, these should have been going out ages ago,” she remarked.
Meanwhile, Brighton Sealife manager Max Leviston criticised the content of the train-company’s public awareness efforts.
“They’ve obviously put a lot of thought into telling people not to come to Brighton, but I don’t think enough has been done to let people know Brighton is still open,” he told the local press.
This latest rail chaos comes as growing rumours in Westminster suggest that the prime minister may soon call for a national review of underperformance throughout the country’s rail infrastructure. The as-yet unconfirmed major review apparently has the support of transport minister Chris Grayling, and could be viewed as an attempt to placate angry commuters swayed by Labour long- term pledge to renationalise the entire network.
In the meantime, though, Brighton, a long-time sufferer of rail net- work abuse, will continue to suffer.And any comfort offered by Thameslink and Govia will likely generate disbelief, particularly given their own track record two years ago along the south coast and the recent rail blitzkreig in Blackpool.