England

Passengers take government to High Court over Southern

ABC protest Image copyright Bradley Rees

A commuters' group has been given a date for a court hearing in its bid for a judicial review of the government's handling of the Southern rail "fiasco".

The Association of British Commuters (ABC) will attend a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on 29 June.

The drivers' union, Aslef, is due to begin an overtime ban on the same day.

Leaders of the RMT are due to meet this week to discuss the next move in their long-running disputes with Southern, Merseyrail and Northern (Arriva North).

The RMT is in dispute with the rail companies over driver-only-operated trains which they say would be unsafe and lead to widespread job losses.

Aslef and the RMT have been in a bitter dispute with Southern and its parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), for more a year over the roles of train staff.

'This fiasco'

ABC said ministers acted unlawfully by failing to determine whether managers had breached franchise obligations. They said the court hearing could lead to a full judicial review.

Summer Dean, of ABC, said: "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 Department for Transport's involvement in Southern Rail."

Mick Cash, the RMT's general secretary, said: "The spotlight is now well and truly back on the basket-case Southern rail franchise and their unconditional support from this minority government, regardless of the safety and service consequences."

The Department for Transport said it would be "inappropriate" to comment while legal proceedings were ongoing.

A GTR spokesman said: "We take our responsibilities to our passengers incredibly seriously, in particular disabled customers. We now have more staff assigned to work on our trains than we did before who can assist."

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