The news that further strike action is to hit Eastbourne commuters next week (8-12 August) is being greeted by anger and frustration.
The five-day walkout by conductors on Southern Rail, will hit businesses, passengers and tourism during the town’s busiest period – Airbourne. The four-day air show regularly attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the town, boosting Eastbourne’s economy by millions of pounds.
Christina Ewbank, Chief Executive of Eastbourne UnLtd Chamber of Commerce said, “This is a huge disappointment to the business community in Eastbourne, which feels greatly let down by both GTR and the RMT.”
The industrial action was confirmed earlier today (5 August) after talks at ACAS broke down between Govia Thameslink Railway – Southern’s parent company – and the RMT Union, which represents the conductors. It had been hoped the two sides would come to an agreement over the introduction of driver-only trains – a row which has caused misery to commuters for months, as they suffer strike action, delays and cancellations.
Next week, there will be no trains running between Eastbourne and Hastings and only a limited service between Eastbourne and Brighton. Stagecoach Buses has announced they will lay on extra buses between Eastbourne and Hastings and Eastbourne and Polegate during the walkout to try and allay some of the pressure on public transport.
Eastbourne’s Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesman, Stephen Lloyd has condemned the breakdown in communication saying, “This is a profoundly disappointing outcome that both Southern Rail and the RMT couldn’t come to a sensible conclusion to prevent next week’s strike. I really believe the time has come for the Department for Transport to step in and take charge of this whole debacle. The Government simply cannot wash its hands of its own responsibility in solving this transport crisis.”
Eastbourne Green Party spokesman, Andrew Durling is also calling for Government intervention, “This is disastrous news for all rail users. The service is so dire, the government must step and run it directly like with the East Coast Main Line. The Green Party believe that each railway franchise should be re-nationalised as each comes to an end. In the case of Southern Rail, that should be immediately as it is dire and unsafe and is simply not good enough.”
Meanwhile, the Leader of East Sussex County Council, Cllr Keith Glazier said, “I’m very disappointed. Clearly this needs to be resolved and the people of East Sussex shouldn’t be treated this way.”
Leader of Eastbourne Conservative Party, Tony Freebody still hopes a solution can be found, “It’s disappointing that talks between GTR and the RMT have broken down. It is appalling that this is happening during the summer holidays, especially with Airbourne happening next week. Passengers are already paying for a service, which is at best, poor and even at this eleventh hour, I would urge both sides to get back around the table.”
Eastbourne Buzz has tried to get hold of Eastbourne Labour Party, MP Caroline Ansell and Leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, Cllr David Tutt for statements, but are yet to hear back.
With chaos predicted across the rail network in and out of the town, what are your thoughts on the strike action? Do you support one side or the other? And what changes will you have to make to your daily life to work around the industrial action? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on our social media.