Pride train chaos – police say they were not to blame

Sussex Police has denied ordering for the gates to be closed at Brighton Station on Saturday night (August 4) after ‘dangerous’ overcrowding following Britney’s Pride performance.

This comes after Southern Rail operator Govia Thameslink (GTR) said police had closed access to Brighton Station during the chaos which saw Pride-goers sleep on Brighton beach after being unable to get home.

The crowds outside Brighton station on Saturday evening after Britney's performance at Pride (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

The crowds outside Brighton station on Saturday evening after Britney's performance at Pride (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

The crowds outside Brighton station which started to build after 11pm were described as ‘dangerous’ as thousands of people tried to make their way home.

There were also reports of trains leaving Brighton station half empty while thousands waited outside the station.

Sarah Garvey, travelling to London, said: "It was dangerous. There was no crowd control. Organisation was really poor. There was no information given. We were standing on rubbish. People were angry and pushing, it was scary. We waited for 45 minutes then they opened the gates and everyone pushed through and I walked through broken glass.

"Then everyone was running down the platforms panicking. Everyone thought they'd missed their last train."

Police at Brighton station (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

Police at Brighton station (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

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Brighton and Hove City Council had to open the Brighton Centre as a refuge for those left stranded - although it said only nine people used the service, with many others sleeping on the beach.

Today (August 6), Sussex Police said: “After the Pride event at Preston Park on Saturday night (August 4), the city experienced an exceptionally high volume of people at Brighton Railway Station.

“British Transport Police (BTP) assisted by Sussex Police officers allowed people to enter the railway station and onto the train as safely as possible. Passengers were held on the concourse to prevent dangerous crowding on the platforms. This is a standard safety precaution.

“The Sussex Police command team for the operation did not request that the gates at the station be shut. During the planning of the event we made it clear that there needed to be a robust plan at the station and good transport arrangements. This was the responsibility of other partners to arrange.”

This comes as Govia Thameslink said on Sunday (August 5): “We ran 15 extra trains yesterday to cope with the unprecedented visitor numbers, in addition to the plan agreed with the event organisers.

"The police closed access to Brighton station and asked us to suspend train services for a period to help with crowding in the town, after which our extra trains helped clear the station steadily. We are again ready to run extra trains this evening.”

Pride organisers said lessons must be learned after the chaos on Saturday, although they said the situation for passengers was much improved after LoveBN1 Fest on Sunday evening (August 5).

Paul Kemp, managing director of Brighton and Hove Pride CIC, said: “We have been really encouraged by the quick response by GTR who successfully delivered thousands of people into the city and their real willingness for an ongoing partnership approach. GTR responded quickly to our initial concerns. We thank them for their response and appreciate their genuine support for the Brighton & Hove Pride Festival.

“It is encouraging that all partners acknowledge there are lessons to be learned, and we are committed to working closely together to make future events even more successful.”

Chief Superintendent Neil Honnor, the force commander for the event, said: “It was a challenging couple of hours following the Preston Park event when people were making their way home. With the support of our partners, we did manage the queue outside the station so that when the last extra train departed at 2.15am there was no one left.

“Following on from what we learnt on Saturday night, both the train operator and BTP supported the operation from the event control room on Sunday. They also put on extra staffing resources and introduced a queuing system for passengers at the railway station ensuring people were able to make journey home.

“We would like to thank the public and passengers for their patience and understanding.”

Related stories: Police say 450,000 people flocked to the city during Pride weekend
Brighton Pride organisers ‘appalled’ at ‘insufficient’ train service