Court date set for commuters' case against Southern Railway
A commuters' group seeking a judicial review of the Government's handling of Southern Railway has secured a date for a court hearing to press its case.
The Association of British Commuters (ABC) will attend a so-called public permission hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on June 29 - the same day as an overtime ban by Southern drivers starts in a dispute about driver-only operation.
Meanwhile, leaders of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will meet this week to decide their next move in the long-running rows at Southern, Merseyrail and Northern about driver-only trains.
ABC said the court hearing will finally bring the principles of the case into the public arena and could lead to a full-blown judicial review.
Southern's 300,000 passengers have suffered more than a year of disruption because of strikes, staff shortages and other problems, with the Government being criticised for its role in the crisis.
The group's case is being supported by the disabled and older people's charity Transport For All.
Summer Dean, of ABC, said the court date will be the most important day in its campaign, and was the only chance of bringing the "never-ending rail crisis" to a close.
"Passengers are the only people who still don't have a voice in this fiasco, and many thousands of them support us in our efforts to reveal the truth behind the Department for Transport's involvement in Southern Rail."
Emily Yates, also of ABC, said: "With half of our case being based on the issue of the Government's unreasonable delay in acting on Southern Rail, the irony is that our case has only got stronger in the four and a half months it has been under consideration.
"This case has already been delayed beyond any of our expectations and it is now long past time for us to meet the DfT in court."
Catherine Smith, campaigns and outreach officer at Transport For All, said: "It's shameful that disabled passengers have been allowed to bear the brunt of Southern Rail's failures.
"We have the same right to travel as everybody else, but Govia Thameslink Railway's management has left many disabled people locked out of our rail network.
"This case is a fantastic opportunity to ensure that disabled people's voices are heard and to ensure that our railways are accessible to everyone."
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The spotlight is now well and truly back on the basket-case Southern Rail franchise and their unconditional support from this minority government regardless of the safety and service consequences.
"RMT's executive will be considering the next steps in the guards' and drivers' safety disputes this week."