Judicial Review of the Department for Transport’s handling of the Southern Rail franchise
"The Association of British Commuters is seeking legal advice from Devonshires Solicitors LLP and specialist counsel on the options for issuing a Judicial Review of the government’s handling of the Southern Rail franchise.
We are looking for £25,000 to cover the initial stages of the Judicial Review. Please donate and help us bring the Government to account, protect the health, safety and livelihood of thousands of rail users, and change your future commute for the better.
There is a strict time limit on starting JR claims, so we need to act now and we need to act fast! Please pledge now so we can begin the action.”
Background to the crisis:
The Southern Rail crisis is making the lives of commuters a daily misery. For over 18 months we have experienced severe delays and dangerously overcrowded trains and platforms, which form a major compromise to passenger safety. On a rail network already stretched to capacity, this summer became a nightmare for commuters on the Southern Rail network and barely a day goes by that we don’t hear of someone losing their job or relocating their home and family due to the sheer impossibility of living with this daily catastrophe.
Most worrying of all are the health and safety concerns – it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ someone gets hurt, it’s more a question of ‘when’. As the central hub of communications in this period, we at the Association of British Commuters have heard stories of panic attacks, overheating, and even the appalling scenario of disabled people unable to get on and off trains and so left unable to travel.
These health and safety risks and humiliating acts of discrimination are simply unacceptable. By endangering lives on a daily basis and failing to meet basic standards of service and reliability, we feel strongly that Southern Rail is operating far below its contractual and wider legal obligations; and it is now well beyond the point where a responsible government should step in.
We have watched the situation deteriorate for months, and still the Department for Transport have abstained from their responsibility to ensure safety and service by intervening in a franchise that is quite clearly falling apart. We have no confidence in the latest £20m initiative by the DfT, which appears to be no more than a sticking plaster over a failing but highly profitable private company; paid for by tax payers’ money.
It is time to step up and use the law as the moral instrument the travelling public needs. We have no interest in launching a legal case after someone is seriously hurt - we must act now to prevent that possibility. To wait and continue to watch the situation deteriorate is no longer an option if any of us want to sleep at night.
This Crowd Justice campaign launches with the support of Bring Back British Rail, Campaign for Better Transport and the Reigate, Redhill and District Rail Users Association.
We want to bring a Judicial Review (“JR”) against the DfT. This is a type of legal process in which the High Court can review the decision-making process of the DfT and - if that process is found wanting - can make an order declaring the DfT’s actions unlawful; preventing it from continuing in its course of action and requiring it to take steps to fulfil its duties.
We are pleased to confirm that we have now instructed Devonshires Solicitors LLP to investigate the circumstances around the rail crisis, with the intention of bringing a Judicial Review of the DfT’s actions.
The first stage of any JR is to apply to the Court for permission to bring the claim. Applications for permission must be brought within a strict time limit, so we need to act now and we need to act fast!
How much will this cost?
We have set an ultimate target of £25,000, which is an estimation of the costs required to investigate the claim and make an application for permission to initiate the JR.
Our initial target of £10,000 is intended to fund a full legal review of all the material, resulting in comprehensive legal advice on the way forward. Any amount over that will go towards drafting the Grounds and issuing the application itself.
If our application for permission is successful – an enormous step in itself – we will then launch a further fundraiser for the second stage.
What will the money be used for?
The first target funding will enable us to instruct our lawyers to: undertake a review of the papers, advise in detail on the JR claim, correspond with the DfT regarding the proposed claim, seek out claimants and witnesses, and apply for permission to bring the claim.
In order to make sure the funds raised go as far as they possibly can, members of the Association of British Commuters will take over much of the legwork from the lawyers to save on costs, including seeking out suitable commuters to act as individual claimants and witnesses. The Association intends to engage the services of two individuals to undertake this work – Summer Dean and Emily Yates.
The Association is now undertaking an application to the Charity Commission to be registered as a charity. There is no guarantee that the Association will be awarded charity registration, but if it is, we will be able to claim Gift Aid on all donations.
At this stage, it is not possible to say what the final costs will be. This will depend on the precise grounds of the challenge, the nature of the responses from the DfT, the number of claimants through which the Judicial Review is brought, and the number and length of Court hearings and written submissions required.
How you can help
This is not just a crowdfunded legal campaign. It's a crowd action - one that will require your involvement every step of the way.
With tens of thousands of commuters affected, we have had an incredible response from people offering their skills and resources to fight this ongoing injustice. These offers need to be taken advantage of – we need to work together to take the campaign to the next level.
Through its Facebook group, the Association of British Commuters has become the online space of camaraderie among commuters, and the hub of press and communications through this whole affair. We now need to build these connections further and work together to tell our stories, as part of a legal case that will represent hundreds of voices from our community.
Many people have already contacted us with their experiences, research and information about how the franchise is operating. Now, we are asking to hear your stories again and in more depth – we are going to put all these statements together and make sure you are listened to, not just by the press or by politicians, but by the judiciary – who are empowered to listen to our case and take real, meaningful action.
In addition to donating, please stay in touch with us – we need your support now more than ever. If you have been particularly affected by the Southern Rail crisis, contact us on email@example.com
This campaign is organised by Summer Dean, campaign spokesperson; and Emily Yates, campaign co-ordinator, of the Association of British Commuters. Feel free to contact us directly through the above email address.
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