HOTELIERS and other business owners are demanding that Network Rail and Govia Thameslink minimise the impact of rail disruptions over the next nine months.

It comes after Network Rail released the dates of the 15 weekends, and a nine-day period in February, when services between Brighton and London will be disrupted while it carries out maintenance and upgrades.

The Brighton and Hove Tourism Alliance is bringing together its members, which include the i360, Churchill Square and the Grand Hotel Brighton for a meeting on Tuesday, September 4, with senior decision makers from Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and councillors.

Anne Ackord, who chairs the Brighton and Hove Tourism Alliance and is the chief executive of the Brighton Pier Group, said: “The railway is the major link with our customers and while we appreciate works have to carried out, we need to ensure visitors can reach the city easily and that we appreciate the extra effort that they have made, for example with cheaper parking for those who travel by car.

“We believe that all parties must accept that the disruptions will affect visitor numbers detrimentally and cause loss to local businesses and the city’s reputation.

“We don’t want our city to be associated with difficult access and these works add to the damage of the recent strike action.”

Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle said: “Tourism is vital to the city’s economy so I’ve been speaking to key players about their concerns over rail disruption.

“Robust and effective measures must be put in place to ensure that the impact caused by the maintenance works is minimised as much as possible.”

But Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said that although maintenance needs to be done, “decision makers do not seem to be taking proper account of the impact on key tourist dates and on passengers that are already putting up with atrocious services and a timetable fiasco.”

Roger Perkins, media relations manager at Govia Thameslink, said: “For the weekend work, we’ll be following a plan we’ve used successfully in previous years.

“In addition to buses between Brighton, Lewes and Three Bridges, we will be running a special train service every 30 minutes between Brighton and Victoria via Littlehampton. Our key message to passengers is to plan ahead and allow more time for your journey.”