‘The cafe is our life’ ... station business hard-hit by rail dispute

Roberta Guthria and son Anthony at the Solo Caffe at Horsham Station SUS-161229-101914001
Roberta Guthria and son Anthony at the Solo Caffe at Horsham Station SUS-161229-101914001

An internet campaign has been launched to help save a business hit hard by effects of long-running strikes by train drivers and conductors.

Owners of the Solo Caffe at Horsham Station - Duncan and Roberta Guthria - describe business as ‘terrible.’

But the couple have won sympathy from local residents who have staged a campaign on the website streetlife.com aimed at supporting the cafe during the rail dispute.

Roberta, 59, described business as ‘the worst it’s ever been in the 18 years we have been running the cafe’.

“It’s so bad that I have to look for a job because we can’t afford to pay the rent for the cafe any more.”

The couple also run a cafe on the station’s platform but closed that one just before Christmas because of the lack of trade during the rail disruption.

“There were only a few people on the platform,” said Roberta, “and we have to think about costs.”

But, she said: “We just have to hang on. This is the first time in 18 years that I have had to look for a job. When you are 20 you can pick and choose, but when you are 59 it’s not so easy.

“My son is at uni, but I can’t help him. The cafe is our life, but we have a mortgage to pay. Last month was the first time we were late in paying the rent for the cafe.”

But Roberta is at pains to point out that she does not blame Southern Rail for the problem. “I don’t have anything bad to say about Southern,” she said. “They have always been good to us. I don’t have anything against them.”

Meanwhile on the social media site streetlife.com, people have been pledging support for the Guthria family.

Launching an appeal to help the cafe, one man said: “As a regular user of the rail service I know that this (rail dispute) is having a significant impact on some of the businesses at Horsham Station as they rely on travelling passengers as their main source of trade.”

Many have said they will use the cafe to drop in for a coffee rather than going into Horsham town centre.

Another man said: “It would be a real shame when (if) Southern Rail run the trains properly again this valued facility is lost.”