ABC’s permission hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice: Thursday 29th June
ABC’s application for judicial review is one of the most significant challenges to the Department for Transport in decades. If successful, the case will lead to a ‘declaration of unlawfulness’ in two precedent-setting areas: 1. Government accountability on rail franchising and 2. Government responsibility for disabled access to rail transport. If this case succeeds, it will be a major victory for all passengers - permanently improving the accountability of UK transport policy; as well as finally getting justice for the Southern Rail crisis and all the harm it has done to our families, livelihoods, and communities.
We are seeking to raise £30,000 in the next 30 days, with an initial target of £15,000. The money raised will fund our permission hearing, future legal work on our JR case, and any potential costs in case of failure. Many thanks for your donations and please do all you can to spread the word about our court date on June 29th!
The story so far:
After eight months of working on our precedent-setting case for rail transport, we finally received a verdict on our judicial review application. The shocking news came through in May that our application was refused by a single judge, who took the view, without a public hearing, that ABC ‘lacked interest’ in the proceedings.
We are extremely troubled by the implications of this refusal - if the people who have been the main victims of the Southern Rail crisis 'lack standing', is this not paramount to saying that members of the public do not have the right to challenge the government on decisions that directly affect them?
With the refusal of permission in writing, the door was left open for a public court hearing on the issue. And so, we were left with a vital decision – to give up now and let the government off the hook – or, to take the case forward to a public permission hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice. Needless to say, we did not hesitate in choosing the second option, and applied for an oral hearing of the case in order to finally bring its principles out into the public arena. We were immediately granted permission for the hearing, and the court date has now been set for Thursday 29th June.
Disabled access on Southern Rail - our partnership with Transport for All:
We have been working closely with the disabled and older people’s charity Transport for All since 2016, and they will be joining us in court on 29th June to support our case.
Meanwhile, ABC’s disabled members face daily stress and uncertainty when using Southern Rail; especially since the company withdrew its guarantee of a second member of staff from its services. Such problems have been affecting disabled passengers since the crisis reached its peak in 2016, and have only got worse in 2017 with the removal of the guaranteed second member of staff from trains. Unstaffed trains now run to unstaffed stations, which we believe is a breach of the Equality Act - resulting in wheelchair users being left behind on platforms, or trapped on trains past their intended destination.
Southern Rail passengers who have been affected by access failures are encouraged to contact us with their witness reports, which may add further weight to our case. You can contact us at: email@example.com
We now need your help more than ever:
With very little time until we face the Department for Transport in court, we have never needed your support so much. To the thousands of people who’ve suffered alongside us and supported this case from the start, we ask: please support our judicial review in every way that you can. You can help by donating to our crowdfunder, publicising our cause, and most especially – by making space in your diary for Thursday 29th June so you can join us at court!
What will the money be used for?
We knew from the start that our judicial review would be a case of “David versus Goliath” and after eight months of working on it, we have so far been proven correct. The DfT have shown themselves to be very slow in releasing documents, and the constant delays in communication and extension of deadlines seemed set to drain us of all resources. That we have come this far is thanks to the incredible amount of volunteering from ABC members, as well as generously discounted rates from our barrister; and our legal team at Devonshire’s going above and beyond the call of duty.
As a non-profit organisation set up with the long-term mission of pursuing justice and transparency in UK transport, it is important that we ourselves are completely transparent with our supporters. We therefore present what we consider to be best and worst case scenarios for this case going forward.
Our public hearing on 29th June will lead to one of two outcomes:
1. If permission is granted, 29th June will be the gateway to a judicial review that will set major precedents for both rail franchising and disability access. This will have a great impact on rail transport all over the UK - as well as bringing the culprits of the Southern Rail crisis finally to account. If permission succeeds, we expect our legal expenses to be no more than £10,000, and we will put the remaining £20,000 towards our full judicial review.
2. If permission is refused, we will still have had the chance to publicly challenge the DfT in open court and do not know what new information might be exposed during the 90-minute hearing. The case will also generate great publicity and pressure at a time when the DfT is succeeding in holding back the controversial Gibb report; and Southern Rail is openly turning the clock back on disability access rights. If we are refused permission, we expect to use most if not all of the money in legal fees and costs. Any remaining funds will stay in our client account and pay for further legal advice from Devonshires on our pursuit of a public inquiry and other avenues for justice on the Southern Rail crisis.
Clear your diaries for 29th June!
On 29th June, we will finally have the chance to compel the DfT to face these issues properly; in an open court. We badly need donations, but most of all we want you there - the courtroom is able to accommodate 20-30 people in the public gallery and we expect the media interest to be intense.
This will be our biggest battle yet. But whatever the outcome, it will not be our last.
Whether our case should fail, or whether it should succeed, every one of ABC’s directors, associate members and volunteers will pick up again the next day and begin to compile our extensive material into a demand for a public inquiry. The scandalous mismanagement of the Southern Rail contract and appalling lack of government accountability will be exposed one day; however we get there.
We have put over a year's work into making ABC an independently-funded and high-profile campaign for transport justice. We can assure you that 2016 was just the first year of many, and we intend to be around for many more years doing exactly the same - regardless of who seeks to question our 'standing'.
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