Help us purchase our court transcript and begin a 'People's Inquiry' to expose the truth about the Department for Transport’s role in the catastrophic Govia Thameslink Railway contract.
The Department for Transport has kept passengers in the dark about GTR ever since they first breached their performance benchmarks over three years ago. We question the independence of DfT and ORR led inquiries into the collapse of Rail Plan 2020 – especially as regards GTR’s buyout of future liability until September 2018. There is only one way we can force accountability on this issue, and that is by purchasing the court transcript from the case against the DfT that 2,000 GTR passengers funded last year. If we don’t push hard and ask the right questions now, these rail crises will keep happening, and passengers will be the main victims.
Our initial target of £1,500 will fund the purchase of the court transcript from our 2.5 hour oral hearing against the Department for Transport last year. The £1,500 will also provide funding for ABC to promote the full story behind the GTR franchise breaches to press and MPs, while looking into the best avenues for further legal action:
1. The court transcript will reveal claims made by the Department for Transport to be 'imminently' deciding on GTR's force majeure claims in June 2017. After listening to their argument in court, the Judge surprised the DfT with an ultimatum - to announce their decision on the contractual breaches within two weeks or be taken to judicial review. It was not until January's NAO report that we learned that they arranged a last-minute deal allowing GTR to buy out their liability for performance until September 2018. A comparison of these documents will be highly embarrassing for the Department for Transport and must be published in the urgent public interest.
2. Our court transcript will also reveal two important precedents that could help others to challenge the contracts between government departments and private contractors. Mr Justice Ouseley confirmed that it is 'perfectly obvious' that there is a public law duty owed to the public by the Secretary of State that franchise agreements are enforced in a reasonable manner - and also that policy decisions must be made within a 'reasonable time'. It is important that we publish this transcript in full so that it can be used as a resource for future legal actions by rail passengers, and indeed users of all public services.
Our stretch target of £5,000: A People's Inquiry into the Department for Transport
With the collapse of Rail Plan 2020, it has never been more obvious that the DfT acts in the interests of the train operating companies over the interests of the public. By allowing GTR to buy out their future liability for performance, we believe they have given them contractual impunity; which means our government could be trapped in this contract by the threat of a judicial review from GTR.
Any amount raised over £1,500 will help us to create a fact-checked timeline of the true history of the GTR contract since they first breached their contract in July 2015. As always, we are fighting against the tide of superficial press coverage and well-funded rail industry propaganda - it is vital that we resist the government's attempts to rewrite history about the Southern Rail Crisis.
Our stretch target of £5,000 will allow us to investigate the many issues of transparency and justice around GTR that must urgently see the light of day. The incompetence at the heart of the Department for Transport is affecting passengers all over the UK - if we do not expose these issues now, these crises will keep happening and passengers will be the only victims.
Our stretch target of £5,000 will allow us to continue investigating:
1) Further opportunities for legal action, especially around consumer rights, equality of access and government/corporate accountability in rail. The new rail ombudsman does not go nearly far enough for the scale of the problems we have been experiencing for three years on GTR.
2) Operational and contractual issues relating to Govia Thameslink Railway and the Thameslink project. We have no faith in the Transport Minister Chris Grayling, or the DfT and ORR led investigations, and predict that the next few months will be nothing but a blame game where all parties attempt to evade accountability.
3) The industrial dispute over driver-only operation, with a focus on A) its use as a smokescreen to conceal unprecedented contractual failure on the TSGN/GTR franchise and B) government cover ups around equality of access and the negative effect of removing the guard from the train on vulnerable and disabled passengers.
4) The conduct of the civil service, especially alleged conflicts of interest relating to Peter Wilkinson, MD of Passenger Services at the DfT. Peter Wilkinson was involved in awarding the GTR contract at a time when he was also a director and major shareholder of First Class Partnerships, a consultancy that had advised GTR as a client.
What's next for the Association of British Commuters?
Over the coming months, we will be developing online tools for public investigations into rail franchises - every donation at this stage will play a key part in the process and if we raise enough we will create the first ABC wiki, to tell the entire GTR story in the form of an accessible and fully transparent online investigation.
Please donate to our fighting fund and we will do all we can to keep up the exposes and pressure until the truth behind the the ongoing GTR scandal is brought to light.
Feel free to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to share your thoughts or any evidence on the above issues. You can view updates on our blog abcommuters.wordpress.com and Twitter or Facebook: @ABCommuters.
Photo: © Ron Fassbender
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