COUNTY NEWS: Commuter group to meet Department for Transport in court over Southern crisis

A Sussex-based commuter group has announced it will be attending a public court hearing on the Southern crisis next week.

ABC protest (Photograph: Bradley Rees)
ABC protest (Photograph: Bradley Rees)

Campaigners will find out if their bid for a judicial review into the Department for Transport's handling of the Southern Rail franchise has been successful, at a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday, June 29.

Last year, the Association of British Commuters (ABC) raised £26,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to apply for a judicial review on the DfT's handling of the Southern crisis.

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But campaigners revealed that in May, they received the news that four months after submitting their case to court, permission for a judicial review had been refused by a single judge.

ABC protest at London Bridge (Photograph: Summer Dean)

Since then, ABC has applied for a public permission hearing with a panel of judges, which was granted by the court and set for June 29.

Bradley Rees of the ABC campaign, said: “We are outraged by the implications of the initial refusal of permission and more than prepared to argue our case. If the people who’ve been the main victims of the Southern Rail crisis 'lack standing', isn’t this paramount to saying that members of the public do not have the right to challenge the government on decisions that are harmful to their family lives and livelihoods?”

Co-founder of ABC Summer Dean said: “Our court date on June 29 will be the most important day yet in our campaign, and still seems the only chance any of us have of bringing this 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 DfT’s involvement in Southern Rail.”

Emily Yates, co-founder of ABC, added: “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.”

The grounds of the case were first submitted to the court back in February and focus on government accountability around transport policy and equality of disabled access to UK rail.

ABC’s judicial review is supported by the disabled and older people's charity Transport for All, which has now written two letters to the court in support of the case.

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 GTR’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.”

The passenger-led campaign and not-for-profit organisation has today (June 19), launched a further legal crowdfunder to help proceed with the case.

It is aiming to raise a further £15,000 to continue fighting the case.

The group said if permission for a judicial review is granted on June 29, it will put the cash towards our full judicial review.

If permission is refused, the group said it still have had the chance to publicly challenge the DfT in open court during the 90-minute hearing next week, but the remaining funds could be used in pursuit of a public inquiry, or other avenues 'for justice on the Southern Rail crisis'.

The Department for Transport said it would be 'inappropriate' to comment on legal proceedings.