CAROLINE ANSELL MP: Rail strike disruption for our air show

Caroline Ansell, MP for Eastbourne SUS-160604-141512001
Caroline Ansell, MP for Eastbourne SUS-160604-141512001

I’m a big fan of Airbourne – but it looks like the first two days of this year’s programme are at risk of being remembered for the terrible rail strike that stands to affect thousands of visitors.

The best flying displays in the world are not much good if people can’t get here to see them.

I’m pleased to say that things may not be as bad as they might have appeared earlier in the week.

In a normal year there would be over 500,000 visitors during these four days, many relying on the train service.

Clearly the busiest days are Saturday and Sunday, but displacement of trains could be as much an issue as the strike itself – I am told schedules are finalised 48 hours in advance, so a late suspension of the strike doesn’t mean things get back to normal immediately.

Given the dreadful service we have had in the last few weeks, then it is likely the roads, buses and other means of transport will be far busier, even more so than usual.

Airbourne is the largest free airshow in the country, and one of the best in the world.

It is without doubt the week in the year when more visitors come to Eastbourne than any other, and any threat to its success must be vigorously challenged.

I have taken this up at the highest level with Southern’s CEO and the Minister to express - in the strongest terms - my dismay and anger at strike action which could have decimated the biggest event of our year.

On Tuesday I made a direct, personal appeal to RMT union boss Mick Cash to suspend the strike and resume talks.

Last week Southern offered what I believe to be a reasonable set of proposals.

It is beyond disappointing that negotiations collapsed.

I have engaged with Southern on their contingency plans which include alternative routes and co-ordination with emergency services on crowd management at the station.

Brighton and Hove Buses and Stagecoach have made additional buses available and I would like to thank all those working tirelessly to make Airbourne 2016 happen.

So I hope you and your friends and family manage to get to the show this week.

I hope to see you there.

I am particularly looking forward to the Red Arrows, the Typhoon and of course the wonderful Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Also good to see that the weather looks fair (at least at the time of writing!) so hopefully we’ll have four full days of action.