Warning that rail works will hit city's economy

Network Rail engineers will be working on the Brighton Mainline over the May bank holidays
Network Rail engineers will be working on the Brighton Mainline over the May bank holidays

A environmental group has warned that engineering works by Network Rail over the May bank holiday will impact the city's economy on one of its busiest weekends.

Works on the Brighton Mainline will take place on May 6 to 8 – the opening weekend of the Brighton Festival – meaning there will be no direct trains to the city from London or Gatwick Airport.

Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion's Green MP

Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion's Green MP

Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) said Network Rail was putting its own convenience above the needs of Brighton and Hove during 'one of the busiest and most important times for the local economy'.

Chris Todd of BHFOE said: “The May bank holiday weekend is one of the busiest in the calendar. Apart from being a popular time for people to visit the city, it’s also the start of the Brighton Festival.

“We already have a problem with too many people driving into the city. We need Network Rail and rail operators to be increasing services, not bringing the city to a grinding halt. Disrupting rail services and reducing capacity shows how out of touch and unaccountable they think they are. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time that Network Rail has done this.

“It’s about time Network Rail was held to account locally. The Government needs to wake up to the shocking way coastal communities are being treated. Is it any wonder that we are failing to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution from transport sufficiently quickly when the people in charge are behaving like this?”

BHFOE is calling on Brighton and Hove City Council, the city's MPs and the Chamber of Commerce to get behind a campaign to get services reinstated and the engineering works rescheduled.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “The timing of these engineering works really couldn’t be any worse - and I urge Network Rail to rethink these plans. Time and again we’ve seen the railway line closed at times that are both deeply inconvenient to people living in our city, and damaging to the local economy too. I’d like to see far more local consideration of these kind of decisions - and far more engagement with the views of local people who could have quickly told company bosses that this is one of the worst weekends imaginable for engineering works.”

Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove, said: "Brighton & Hove has had a really long, hard winter this year so this bank holiday represents a great opportunity to get the city open for business again. It's therefore really disappointing that Network Rail have thrown such a spanner in the works by making it impossible to reach us by train.

"I've written to the John Halsall, the route managing director, to ask that the work is moved to a different weekend. Let's celebrate summer coming and get our tourist trade busy!"

Network Rail said: "We are acutely aware of the pressure on the Brighton Main Line, with huge numbers of trains and passengers every day. There is no good time to work on the line, especially when that work is going to take more than a day or overnight.

"By undertaking this work on a Bank Holiday weekend, we can keep the railway open on the Saturday and avoid closing the line for a complete weekend at a later date.

"There is never a quiet time on that railway and by doing this work we can keep trains running reliably for the future."

Network Rail announced the May engineering works this week, and advised passengers to plan their journeys in advance.

It said engineers would be working on:

- Track upgrades between Redhill, Gatwick and Three Bridges on the Brighton Main Line

- Major bridge reconstructions and in south east London to replace outdated Victorian structures

- Upgrades to the third-rail power supply in the Brighton area

As a result, there will be changes to Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express services over the weekend, with diversions and rail replacement buses on some routes.

John Halsall, Network Rail’s South East route managing director, said: “The railway in the South East is the busiest in the country, delivering hundreds of thousands of people to and from work each day and helping support and drive the region’s economy. Because our lines are so busy, we have to carry out a more intensive programme of work than other areas to keep people moving safely and reliably – which is what we’re doing this May bank holiday weekend.

“The work we do really is essential to keeping people and goods moving in the South East and bank holidays are a quieter time, meaning we’re able to keep disruption to passengers to a minimum. There will still be some changes to services, so please do check before you travel.”

For more on the works, click here.