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Southern Railway owners lose High Court bid to avert strike action

The owners of Southern Railway have lost their High Court bid to halt a series of crippling strikes by train drivers.

Members of Aslef are due to walk out for three days next week and six days in January in a dispute over driver-only trains, which will halt all Southern services and affect hundreds of thousands of passengers.

French-owned Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) argued that the action, which is lawful under English domestic law, would unlawfully restrict freedom of movement provisions under EU law.

But on Thursday, judge Sir Michael Burton refused to grant an injunction blocking what GTR called "unprecedented" strike action.

A spokesman for Southern said: "Naturally we're disappointed with today's decision. We will now immediately review matters with our legal team."

The judge granted GTR permission to appeal.

The basis of the application brought by GTR was the first of its kind in UK courts.

The judge said the strikes would cause massive disruption to the public with trains carrying up to 500,000 passengers a day being cancelled.

Drivers on Gatwick Express are not being called out but the service will still be disrupted.

GTR said the roll-out of driver-only operated services is nearly complete and it argued the strikes are not justified or proportionate.

The judge said the industrial action, damaging as it would be to the public and GTR, was not challenged under English law because it had been sanctioned by a lawful ballot and is not arguable under the EU provisions relied on.

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