Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON on the latest twist in the legal battle between the public and the Government
The commuter campaign group ABC – the Association of British Commuters – is to get its day in court at the Royal Courts of Justice against DaFT, the Department for Transport, next week over the shambles that has been the mismanagement of the Southern rail network.
ABC has been seeking a Judicial Review, but their application was dismissed without a hearing, in a letter from a single judge. ABC insisted upon a public permission hearing with a panel of judges, and this has been granted by the court and set for June 29. The hearing will determine whether ABC is allowed to bring its case against DfT over its handling of commuter services through Coulsdon, Purley and East Croydon to Victoria and London Bridge to a Judicial Review.
Summer Dean, one of the campaigners, said: “Our court date will be the most important day yet in our campaign, and 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.”
The grounds of the case were first submitted to the court in February and could be precedent-setting in two main areas: Government accountability around transport policy; and equality of disabled access to UK rail.
ABC’s Judicial Review is supported by the disabled and older peoples’ charity Transport for All, which has written two letters to the court in support of the case. They seek to contribute the benefit of their 20 years’ experience advocating for equal access rights to transport, as well as many witness testimonies of breaches of the Equality Act on Southern Rail.
The news will be welcomed by thousands of ABC’s supporters, many of whom daily endure cattle-truck conditions, delays and cancellations on their commute to and from work.
One of the reasons given for denying ABC’s Judicial Review was that the organisation “lacks standing” – a group formed to represent the interests of thousands of rail-users and tax-payers could not be recognised by the court.
“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?” asked another campaigner, Bradley Rees.
“We are outraged by the implications of the initial refusal of permission and more than prepared to argue our case.”
The passenger-led campaign and not-for-profit organisation will need to fund its legal costs, and it is asking every train user to consider donating to help them proceed with the case.
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