College faces £10,000 replacement bus bill over train strikes

A college in Sussex is bearing the full brunt of staff strikes at Southern Rail, having to shell out up to £10,000 on replacement buses while the dispute continues.

Train drivers from the ASLEF union began industrial action today and will continue the walkout tomorrow and Friday, over a row to do with driver-only trains.

Sussex Coast College in Hastings is having to fork out thousands of pounds to cover alternative travel costs for students to attend lessons because of this.

The college is using two buses to transport students 23 miles from Eastbourne to Rye, which costs £500 every strike day.

A college spokesperson told FE Week that since October, the college had spent more than £8,500 to put on the service for 15 days of strike action, including this week.

He added that with more strike days expected for the week commencing January 23, the college could “well top £10,000 by the end of that week”.

The college now wants compensation from Southern Rail.

Justin Rollings, head of marketing and communications, said: “We have had to put in some emergency measures which requires additional buses to and from Eastbourne, Bexhill and Rye, to enable the students to get to college.

“Without these measure, these strikes would affect our students and their studies them quite dramatically.”

Southern Rail said services are expected to be “severely disrupted every day until further notice” due to the drivers refusal to work overtime, with more strikes expected for another three days later this month unless an agreement is reached by both sides.

A spokesperson said: “We are deeply sorry for the utterly unnecessary and unwarranted disruption this industrial action is causing.

“The unions’ response is utterly disproportionate to our reasonable proposals to modernise the way we operate our services to improve customer service and reduce delays and cancellations.

“We want nothing more than an end to this dispute as quickly as possible.”

ASLEF was unable to comment ahead of publication.

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