By David Thomsom
With hundreds of thousands of commuters affected by a series of rail strikes by Southern Rail recently, students have raided into the row saying that their grades have been affected.
Sussex Coast College in Hastings has been so affected by the walkout by the train drivers that the principal had to hire buses and drivers to pick up students from nearby towns.
One student, Callum MacLeod, told Sky News that the train drivers’ dispute has a “huge impact” on his performance, as services have been disrupted on normal days.
He said: “If they’re late, I can’t get into college and that means I miss lessons which mean I’m behind.
“That really did affect me through last year during my A-levels. When it came to revising, I found out that I’d missed certain parts when I hadn’t been in lessons.”
As a result, Sussex Coast College has put in the emergency travel measure in place that involves two buses to ferry in students 23 miles from Eastbourne to Rye, at the cost of £500 per strike day to the college.
By the beginning of January, the college would have spent nearly £10,000 on transport.
Jim Sharpe, the vice principal at Sussex Coast College, said: “Bluntly, the cost of the college is around £500 a day. So, to date, the cost is approaching £10,000.
“We need to protect the money we would be spending on students in terms of resources, but eventually this is going to have a serious impact on college finances.
“The biggest concern for all of us is that the expenditure on the coaches will mean we can’t do things for students, and it’s ultimately going to impact on the quality of their education.”
The college is now looking to claw the money back from Southern Rail to pay for education.
When Southern Rail was asked about compensation, they said: “While there is no provision for a consequential claim of this kind, we do occasionally receive claims which we look at on a case by case basis.”
Sharpe went on to say the reason why they are doing this is that the strike is not only affecting students attending their classes – as much as 50 percent of students attending their classes – but also their welfare “in terms of tiredness and their ability to cope”.
Members of the train driver union, ASLEF, have walked out on six separate days in January because of a dispute over driver-only trains.
Southern Rail says that it is perfectly safe for the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of a modern train. Around a third of trains across the country is run by driver operated trains for 30 years with the full agreement of ASLEF.
ASLEF has said that the guard should take charge of opening the door because the guards will have a better view of the doors and can stop people getting trapped between the platform and train.
However, ASLEF has expressed sympathy to those students affected by the strikes.
General Secretary, Mick Whelan said: “We don’t want anybody to miss their education, I spend most of my time arguing in other arenas about how unfair it is to have people saddled with tuition fees. So yes, we are sorry if this is happening.”