Commuters close to taking government to court over Southern crisis
A commuter organisation looking to take the DfT to court over its handling of the Southern rail crisis have said that their legal challenge is almost ready.
The Association of British Commuters (ABC) hopes to submit its full application calling for a judicial review by the end of this month, after initially raising funds for the challenge on the website CrowdJustice last September.
The group claims that the DfT has failed passengers in how it has handled the contract for Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway, saying that the government has allowed the economy of the south of England to be brought “to a standstill”.
“Though we cannot yet share details of our final grounds, the case is sure to take on Chris Grayling’s refusal to act in the public interest, and the details of the unprecedented failure of public policy behind Southern Rail’s ‘management contract’,” a statement posted by the ABC said.
“We are also extremely concerned about the lack of disabled access on Southern Rail, a problem that has run throughout this year of service breakdown and is set to become a lot worse with the chaotic changes to staffing now taking place.”
The organisation said that its lawyers had spent months receiving “highly unsatisfactory responses” from the DfT, along with “repeated, time-wasting extensions” to Freedom of Information requests.
It noted that the campaign, founded by Sussex residents in May of last year, had been dissatisfied with Southern Rail even before the franchise’s dispute with unions over driver-only operated (DOO) trains, which has made the situation even more urgent.
“To this day, the details of the government’s contract with Southern Rail remain under lock and key and there has never been a stronger or more urgent case for transparency than now,” the statement read.
The news comes as the RMT said it would hold talks with transport secretary Chris Grayling over the DOO dispute, in an attempt to avert the days of strikes planned by drivers’ union Aslef for next week and later in the month.
Yesterday the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said that Southern’s proposals to use DOO on its trains would be a “safe method of working” if the franchise makes sufficient improvements.
The announcement was welcomed by GTR and the government but met with anger from the unions, who called the report a “whitewash”.
The ABC is considering launching a second campaign to put together a class action against Southern for claims on financial losses over the course of the year. The association is asking its members for their thoughts on the suggestion.
(Image c. Lauren Hurley from PA Wire and Press Association Images)
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