See you in court: the government is facing legal action from commuters over the chaotic Southern Rail crisis

Commuters Strike
Support us and go ad-free

Fed up commuters are taking the Conservative government to court over the chaos on the Southern Rail network. On Wednesday 1 February, an application for a judge to review the Conservatives’ chaotic handling of the crisis was lodged. And it could see the government in the dock over the rail fiasco.

The government in the dock?

The Association of British Commuters (ABC) has applied for a judicial review into the government’s handling of the Southern Rail crisis. This is a legal process whereby the High Court reviews how the Department for Transport (DfT) has dealt with the rail company. If the government is found to have not fulfilled its duties, the court can declare DfT actions unlawful, forcing the government to intervene to resolve the crisis.

The ABC grew because of grassroots efforts among angry southern commuters. But because of the state of Southern Rail, the group decided to crowdfund to take legal action. The two areas where the ABC want a judicial review to look into are:

  • Delay. The ABC believes Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling has acted unlawfully by delaying a decision as to whether Southern Rail’s parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), has breached its franchise agreement.
  • Discrimination. The ABC also believes the government has failed to comply with his duties under the Equality Act 2010 and has as a result caused indirect discrimination to passengers with disabilities.

Blowing the whistle for passengers

The ‘delay’ element relates to the government’s failure to enforce GTR contractual obligations. Namely, the ABC believes that the company has failed to meet its performance targets, and that the government has done nothing to try and remedy this.

The ‘discrimination’ element relates to the government’s alleged breaches of disabled people’s rights. Namely the ABC believes that Southern Rail is in breach of the Equality Act 2010 regarding its scrapping of full disabled access at 33 stations. Further alleged breaches relate to overcrowding due to GTR mismanagement disproportionately affecting disabled passengers. And the government’s failure to force GTR to act to stop this.

The DfT said it would not comment on “ongoing legal proceedings”. A GTR spokesperson said: “The subject of a judicial review is a matter for the Department for Transport.”

Southern Fail

Southern Rail has repeatedly hit the headlines in the past year. Commuters rate its parent company GTR as the worst rail company for punctuality. Just 81.5% of its trains arrive on time. And the National Rail Passenger Survey named it the worst rail company in Britain.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

As The Canary previously reported, the government announced in September 2016 an extra £20m for GTR. This was to try and sort out the rail operator’s mess. And it was coming from public money. But there was an almighty slap in the face for passengers and workers alike. Southern Rail had actually just increased its profits to nearly £100m. Also trade unions and Southern Rail are currently in a protracted industrial dispute about driver-only operation (DOO) trains.

Commuters. Out of patience

And all of this means continued chaos for commuters. As Lianna Etkind from the Campaign for Better Transport said, the legal case:

is a step forward for passenger power. It is absolutely right that the government is held to account for the failings of the Southern franchise… [It] has made peoples’ lives a misery. Long before any industrial dispute, Southern passengers had to rely on a train service plagued by delays and disruptions, under a management contract with no financial penalties for poor performance.

The court will serve the government the action. And it will have 21 days to respond before a judge decides whether the review has grounds to go ahead. If it does, then the ABC will be crowdfunding again to get the government in the dock. And judging by the appalling state of Southern Rail, there may be many passengers willing to donate to this case.

Get Involved!

– Rail users who’ve suffered because of Southern Rail can contact ABC via [email protected] .

– Sign the petition to renationalise Southern Rail.

– Support Bring Back British Rail, campaigning for renationalisation.

Featured image via the ABC

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed