The attacks on Brighton traincrew by GTR and the Argus for the transport debacle on Friday night that left Albion and Villa fans stranded are without justification. The only industrial action which is being taken are the official strike days which are well publicised in advance. There is no unofficial action taking place and traincrew, both Drivers and Conductors, continue to work rest days and overtime when they choose. We fully support the stance taken by Albion’s chairman that incidents like Friday night place the safety of football fans and other rail users at risk.
SO WHAT WENT WRONG?
It was clear in the lead up to the match that there would be transport issues at the final whistle. Those who regularly attend Albion’s home matches know that supporters travel to Falmer from late afternoon onwards for an evening kick off which means that the supporters are ferried to the match over an extended period and that on match days train services are strengthened (for obvious reasons) from 3/4 coaches up to 6/8 coach services.
This did not happen on Friday night despite it being well publicised that it was going to be a sell out crowd. Supporters struggled to get to the match on 3 coach services with the overcrowding and delays this caused but due to the supporters travelling over a number of hours the railway could still operate safely.
The safety issues occur when all the supporters want to leave from the stadium at the same time and the train operator is unable to supply the extra coaching stock necessary to allow this to happen in an orderly fashion.
For whatever reason this would appear to be the position GTR found themselves in on Friday.
We know that GTR did not strengthen services to get supporters to the match and we are left to conclude that they were still unable to supply enough coaches to move supporters from Falmer at the final whistle.
Despite GTR’s claims, supported by the Argus, that they were unable to run a service due to traincrew shortages it would appear much more likely (as they did not strengthen services to get supporters to the match) that a decision was made to suspend services from Falmer at the end of the match to prevent a safety risk on the rail network caused by having insufficient coaching stock to transport the fans safely.
Southern traincrew are supporters of Brighton and Hove Albion and are understandably upset at being blamed for this shambles. We accept responsibility for disruption caused on our strike days but these are at least well advertised in advance. We want to make it clear that we do not carry out any form of unofficial industrial action and it is our goal through our official action to ensure a Safe Accessible and Secure service for the Albion supporters and all rail users.
Paul Barber, Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive:
Letter from RMT to Office of Rail and Road:
BBC Sussex Drive at 5 on Falmer debacle (c.8mins) with interview with Angie Doll, GTR Passenger Services Director (c.9:40):
My Old Man Said – Villa Supporters’ Blog on Falmer Debacle, “Southern Rail just lied”: