We are delighted to announce that we have applied to Court this morning for a judicial review of the Department for Transport’s handling of the Southern Rail management contract. The application to Court is the outcome of our Crowd Justice fundraiser, which raised over £26,000 in September 2016. We have been working intensively on the case for five months already; a process slowed considerably by the lack of transparency shown by the Department for Transport in response to our FOI requests.
Today’s news will be extremely welcome to all our donors, supporters and volunteers; without whose support none of this would have been possible. It is right that our fellow passengers will now play a part in bringing the government to account for the damage Southern Rail has caused to so many thousands of lives.
Detailed Grounds have been lodged at Court this morning that address the Department for Transport’s ongoing failure to hold Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to account for the long-term breakdown of service on Southern Rail, in regard to two distinct areas:
(1) Delay – we believe the Secretary of State has acted unlawfully by failing to determine and announce within a reasonable time whether GTR is in breach of its franchise obligations; and
(2) Discrimination – we believe that the Secretary of State has failed to comply with his duties under the Equality Act 2010 and has as a result caused indirect discrimination to passengers with disabilities.
These unlawful acts are ongoing. ABC is seeking declaratory relief – i.e. a Court finding that the Secretary of State has acted or is acting unlawfully.
Today’s application to Court is the outcome of five months of hard work; a process slowed considerably by the DfT’s resistance to providing transparency on its contractual relationship with GTR; repeatedly delaying FOI requests, which have only just been completed. Both the Southern Rail management contract and remedial plan remain publicly available only in redacted form and, without transparency, there is no way to clarify the true causes of this unprecedented rail crisis. There has long ceased to be any justification for the Secretary of State’s ‘hands off’ approach to a company that is his Department’s direct contractor.
The application has been lodged and is due to be issued imminently. It will then be served on the Secretary of State who will have the opportunity to respond by filing Summary Grounds of Resistance within a further 21 days. The Court will then consider, usually without a hearing in the first instance, whether to grant leave (permission to proceed to court). If leave is granted, ABC will launch a second crowdfunding campaign to raise sufficient funds to take the case through to its conclusion.
Comment from the Association of British Commuters:
“We are delighted to announce that we have now applied to Court for a judicial review of the Department for Transport’s handling of the Southern Rail management contract.
We are extremely grateful for the work undertaken by our legal team; namely barrister Jamas Hodivala of 2 Bedford Row and solicitor Matthew Garbutt and his team at Devonshires Solicitors LLP. All involved have gone above and beyond the call of duty in helping us seek justice on the Southern Rail crisis.
Our Detailed Grounds, lodged at Court today, are the result of five months’ hard work and the extensive research of dozens of volunteers who have supported the campaign by contributing their time and professional skills. Our donors, supporters and volunteers are the people who have been hit the hardest by the Southern Rail crisis, and they deserve to play a part in finally bringing the government to account.
We began this process back in September, at a time when we felt we’d already reached our last resort. That it has got so much worse, and the DfT have still not acted, now beggars belief. Commuters have long since passed the point of exhaustion, and it is a matter of shame for the DfT that we have had to go to such great lengths to demand action be taken.
We continue to urge the DfT to act decisively and transparently on the future of Southern Rail. The longer they stand back from this unprecedented rail crisis, the harder it will be to put the pieces back together again.”
Lianna Etkind, Public Transport Campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport:
“Today 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, which 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.
Fundamentally, the running of a train service is down to the contract between Government and train operator, so the Government’s role in setting and enforcing the standards in the contract with Govia must be properly scrutinised. For far too long, passengers’ voices have been ignored in the tussle between Southern Rail and the unions. We need to ensure that in the future, passenger representation is written into this franchise, and indeed into all rail franchises, so that those who have to use the trains day in, day out, have their voices heard.”
Faryal Velmi – Director, Transport for All:
“It is totally unacceptable that Southern Rail have been allowed to treat disabled passengers as second class citizens. Transport for All has heard time and again from disabled transport users who feel Southern Rail’s network is now a no-go zone; impacting on people’s ability to work and often leaving them increasingly isolated. The Department for Transport and rail industry must act urgently to prevent the basic rights of disabled passengers being flouted in this way.”
For a detailed explanation of our grounds, please view this document:
ABC continues to work intensively on the JR case, and several other campaigns for proper compensation and consumer justice. To donate to our campaign, click here.