A rail company has said the decision to cancel services for part of Pride has been taken “with a heavy heart”.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which operates Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services, will not operate any trains to or from Brighton station on Saturday, August 5 - coinciding with the first day of Brighton Pride celebrations.

The event, the biggest on the GTR network, requires significant extra capacity each year, but the rail operator said that they are unable to safely run services due to an overtime ban by train drivers’ union Aslef.

GTR said the overtime ban means there will be “significantly less capacity than is required for the people to travel safety on the busiest day of Pride”.

A spokesman for the company said: "It is with a heavy heart that Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) announces that due to serious safety concerns, no trains will run to and from Brighton station on Saturday 5 August.

"This has been an extremely difficult decision to make due to the major impact it will have on everyone planning to attend Pride, which GTR has proudly supported for many years."

Services on Friday, August 4 and Sunday, August 6 will be unaffected by the decision.

Customers attending Pride next Saturday have been urged to make alternative arrangements.

Chris Fowler, network operations and performance director for GTR, said: “GTR has an extremely long-standing relationship with Pride and we are bitterly disappointed to make this unbelievably difficult decision. We know this will be incredibly frustrating and we’re really sorry to everyone who will be impacted, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community.

“After exploring all possible options, and following discussions with the police, emergency services and local council, we simply cannot run a safe service with enough capacity for the extraordinary number of passengers that travel to Brighton for Pride. We can’t in good faith bring people into Brighton that cannot get home again, potentially leaving thousands of people stranded – safety must come first.

“We hope by making this decision now it will allow people time to plan other options and we hope to be back supporting Pride with full services for the whole weekend next year.”

Extra train services usually operate during Pride weekend, covered by drivers volunteering for overtime. GTR said that, without the additional late-night services required, “there is a clear risk of stranding tens of thousands of people overnight without accommodation”.

The train company said that, if services ran on the current amended timetable next Saturday, there would be a capacity shortfall of 85,000 passengers across the whole day, with 20,000 of those occurring in the busiest travel period after 9pm.

GTR also highlighted an incident in 2018, which saw Brighton station closed temporarily by police after a crowd crush.

A spokesman for the company said: "A review after this specifically said Pride should only be served if an increased service could be guaranteed, which GTR has worked to do and delivered since then, in the years when Pride was held.

"We are looking at a scenario with known risks that could lead to serious and preventable injuries, or in the very worst case even fatality.

"We could also see thousands of people stranded and having to sleep on the streets of Brighton or beach - that just is not an acceptable risk."

A range of other options were considered before taking the decision to cancel train services, including stopping services after the community parade or festival in Preston Park, or organising replacement bus services.

However, GTR said: "Regrettably, no solution has been found that would safely match the vast demand we’d see and that’s why we’ve made this very difficult decision to not run services."

Operational challenges due to road closures in the city due to Pride and the partial demolition of the Royal Albion Hotel so prevented the possibility of a replacement bus service.

How will my journey be affected?

On Saturday, August 5, trains on the Brighton mainline will terminate at Three Bridges, with stations between Three Bridges and Brighton not served all day.

Trains will also not run along the southern coastways to Brighton due to the amended timetable that will be in place.

Journey planners for Saturday, August 5 will be updated on Monday, July 31.

Customers who were due to travel will be able to get refunds, with more details available from Southern and Thameslink's websites soon.