Belfast Telegraph

Legal action over Government handling of Southern Railway moves closer

Plans for a legal case against the Government's handling of the Southern Railway franchise have moved a step further.

A group of commuters has applied for a judicial review after lodging detailed grounds addressing the Department for Transport's "ongoing failure" to hold Southern's owners, Govia Thameslink Railway, to account for the "breakdown" of services.

The Association of British Commuters (ABC) said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had acted unlawfully by failing to determine whether GTR was in breach of its franchise obligations.

It added that Mr Grayling had also failed to comply with his duties under the 2010 Equality Act, causing indirect discrimination to passengers with disabilities.

ABC said the court application followed five months of work, a process it claimed was slowed by the DfT's "resistance" to providing information on its contractual relationship with GTR.

The group said that if the court grants it leave to continue, it will launch another crowdfunding campaign to raise funds.

A spokesman said: "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, volunteers and supporters 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."

Southern's services have been disrupted for months by industrial action, staff shortages and other problems.

Talks between the company and Aslef in a dispute over driver-only trains resumed on Wednesday.