Albion boss calls on MPs to end rail dispute

Chief executive of Brighton and Hove Albion Paul Barber
Chief executive of Brighton and Hove Albion Paul Barber

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Paul Barber has said the reputation of the city is being ‘severely damaged’ as a result of the rail crisis.

He called on the government and MPs to step in and resolve the rail dispute, after chaos at Friday’s match with Aston Villa (November 18). Thousands of fans were left stranded at Falmer station on Friday evening, unable to get home, as services to Brighton and Lewes were delayed and even cancelled. Mr Barber, chief executive of the club, said: “Once again Southern have let us down, let down our supporters and the supporters of another club, and left the club’s operations team to pick up the pieces. “There’s no accountability, there’s no responsibility and there doesn’t seem to be any pride in providing a service to the public. Like so many, who rely on the rail network for their livelihoods, our fans have had enough. “We have one of the best travel plans of any football club in the country. It was a condition of the stadium being built that we put in a sustainable travel plan, which means using trains, buses and fewer cars. “Where are the politicians and the government now? Where’s the accountability to bring this organisation to account for the poor service to thousands of people in this city, week in week out? It’s not just about 30,000 people coming to a football match, this dispute is having a devastating effect on people’s lives. “The reputation of Brighton and Hove is being severely damaged every week and it’s time the politicians got more involved, started taking responsibility and represent their electorate. More importantly than the economic effects, there is an increasing risk that someone will get seriously hurt or worse. “On Friday, Sussex Police, British Transport Police and our operations team did a superb job in the face of real adversity on Friday evening to get everyone through the station eventually, but a totally unnecessary panic was created by a lack of communication from Southern, and could have caused serious issues. “Due to the excellent work of our stewards alongside the police, thankfully nobody was crushed or knocked over on the platform, or hit walking down the A27 to try and get to Brighton or Lewes.” He said the government needed to ‘resolve the dispute quickly’. This comes as the RMT union, which is in dispute with Govia Thameslink – which runs the Southern franchise over the role of conductors – began its ninth strike of the year today (November 22). Mick Cash RMT general secretary said: “The dangerous chaos at Falmer after the game on Friday night was entirely down to the sheer managerial incompetence of Southern Rail. “They were running short formations and cancelling services on the hoof due to their pathetic lack of advanced planning for this major fixture. The attempt to lump the blame on front line staff who worked flat out to try and keep passengers safe is disgusting. “RMT will be writing to the safety regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, this morning demanding a full investigation into this latest disgraceful and dangerous series of failures by the basket case Southern Rail outfit.” Southern passenger services director Angie Doll said: “We are truly sorry to Brighton and Hove Albion fans. This was one of the busiest Friday night matches we have had this season and it is difficult managing the 10,000 who travel with us on weekdays when it is much harder to run more trains or longer trains. “We worked through the evening to try to provide cover for additional trains, but unfortunately, we couldn’t because of a shortage of conductors. “We absolutely accept things need to improve. We are holding an internal review this week and sharing the recommendation with our other agency partners and the football club to make sure we give the Seagulls and their fans the service they deserve.”