Brighton leisure leaders slam Southern bosses and unions

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As the chaos surrounding Southern Rail deepens, leading Brighton and Hove business people and politicians have renewed calls for action. But while some blame the government, others are directing their rage at the trade unions who called for strike action.

Brighton’s leisure bosses, including the new owner of Brighton Pier, have hit out at Southern Rail. Travel disruption between London and the south coast has only intensified in recent weeks, as drivers union ASLEF joined the ongoing dispute between Southern and its train conductors.

With fresh rounds of strikes having been announced and ASLEF banning its members from taking overtime, disruption is now a daily occurrence and on days when the drivers strike, no services run on the London Victoria to Brighton Line.

“Traders earn their money during the core summer months, and if we are still having rail strikes come the summer of 2017 then traders are going to be facing strife,” was the stark warning given by Adam Chinnery, spokesman for the Seafront Traders’ Association. He told the local Argus newspaper that, “it just isn’t fair on them and I believe that Southern should lose its franchise.”

The root of the industrial dispute stems from plans by Southern’s parent company Govia (GTR) to introduce more trains on the line that run without conductors. Rail staff argue that this will be unsafe for passengers, while critics of the unions point to other services that run in this way without incident – including the Govia-owned Brighton to Bedford Thameslink trains.

One major business owner defiantly on the anti-union side of the argument is Brighton Palace Pier owner, Luke Johnson. “The Brighton and Hove communities will continue to suffer into 2017 thanks to the selfishness of the unions desperately resisting change,” he said. “The independent rail body says that driver-only operations are safe. Large parts of the rail network already function without traditional conductors. But the unions are fighting a political battle and don’t care about commuters or visitors or local businesses.

“The government should introduce legislation as they have in Italy, Spain and Canada, which prevents essential services like the monopoly rail system being shut down by a strike.”

The MP for Hove, Labour’s Peter Kyle, laid the blame at the feet of the government, telling the Argus: “More strikes would amount to a savage attack on our economy and the quality of life for thousands of our residents. That’s why the government has to step in to resolve this dispute.”

The coin-op economy in Brighton and Hove is heavily dependent on visitors travelling south from London as well as a large number of international visitors travelling into Gatwick airport, which sits midway along the disputed Victoria to Brighton line.

There are currently little to no signs that the issues will be resolved in the near future. Neither Southern nor the unions have indicated they are anywhere close to negotiating a resolution and with the government almost silent on the issue, there little sign of light at the end of the tunnel.

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