IMPORTANT: a message to our supporters on our final weekend before the Aslef overtime ban

We wanted to thank you for all your support on social media. We are now well on the way to raising £15,000 and urgently need to be funded before Thursday – so if you can convince even one more person to donate this weekend, it will have a massive effect on our chances of success! This is a real David vs Goliath battle, as you all know.

This is the best link for sharing and it would have an incredible effect if every one of our backers could share it on social media and explain why they support our case.

We are now entering our final weekend of normal life before the commencement of the next Aslef overtime ban. Claims about just how severely Southern Rail is understaffed vary between Southern Rail’s claim of 10% and Aslef’s of 25% – either way, we know from months of suffering how bad an impact this will have. We ask you to join us in calling for proper scrutiny by the media and MPs on the real issues underlying this never-ending crisis of industrial relations.

There has been a lot going on in Southern Rail news this week and we’ve been doing our best to promote the call for proper public scrutiny of this ongoing crisis.

  • A lively discussion between ABC’s Emily Yates and LBC’s Nick Ferrari this morning.
  • ABC co-director Brad Rees talking about our court case in depth in this TV interview.
  • **On Tuesday, we were the first to break a story of alleged health and safety issues at London Victoria, later acknowledged in the Gibb report, where he stated “At…Victoria, pedestrian flows, gateline + concourse capacity are all significantly influenced by commercial strategy….”

We’re doing as much as we can to bring this situation to a close once and for all and badly need your help. Every Facebook share, tweet and – most of all – real life conversation(!) helps us fight back against a very ill-informed media and create a real chance for scrutiny of the government’s agenda.

Please help us to raise £15,000 by Thursday – and let’s do our best to avoid a repeat of the summer of 2016!

Please donate to our crowdfunder and spread the message to your friends and family!

Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Gibb report expected to highlight urgent need for safety improvements at London Victoria

Today, we exclusively reveal photographic proof of important health and safety related work at Victoria station that has been postponed by the Department for Transport/Network Rail. We expect the Gibb report to highlight this concern, and wish to alert press and MPs to the fact that sources close to Gibb have now confirmed the report was ready for release on April 6th of this year.

The following images come in two pairs. In each pair, the first is a photograph of the current layout at Victoria, and the second a computer simulation from Network Rail of work that should have already been carried out to ease the overcrowding:

Victoria 2

Victoria 1.png

Victoria 3.png

Victoria 4

Senior Network Rail managers highlighted to Chris Gibb on a visit to Victoria station in late 2016 that there were problems with severe congestion for Brighton mainline passengers. The following comment, and everything else in quotes, comes directly from a Network Rail manager:

“There aren’t enough ticket gates for passengers using platforms 15-19. A rebuild of the gate-line was scheduled to have been completed as part of the congestion relief project in CP5 [Network Rail Control Period 5] but was postponed to CP6 [2019-24] to save costs. We made Gibb well aware of how ridiculous the decision was and how long passengers are having to wait to leave the station. We’re hoping he’ll recommend the work is carried out immediately – it’s an accident waiting to happen. This is work that was first planned 20 years ago”

The Network Rail managers informed Gibb that at peak times, passengers were observed queuing up to 5 minutes to pass through the gates at platforms 15-19.

Gibb also inspected the dedicated Gatwick Express platforms and asked why 12-car trains from Brighton were now routinely using platforms with ticket barriers designed to cope with far fewer passengers.

“It’s an unacceptable situation. It’s the first sight of London for tourists from the airport and we’ve had complaints from the Gatwick people who said the experience is costing them travellers”

Following a subsequent risk assessment, Network Rail identified safety concerns about passengers backing up in the confined space and the ability to evacuate in emergency. They have since ordered staff to leave a mesh gate between the concourse at 15-19 and the Gatwick Express platforms unlocked at peak times.

“If passengers knew it was unlocked they could skip the ticket barriers altogether, so we leave it shut but unlocked in case of emergency”

Victoria staff are now regularly asking control to hold trains outside the station to prevent simultaneous arrivals on platforms 15-19 and limit the flow of passengers, leading to knock-on delays on the mainline.

Platform 19, where the platform narrows to 6 feet in places because of roof supports, has been identified as a particular problem.

“We try to ensure the busiest services coming from the coast never arrive on platform 19. There’s a real risk that if anything happened to passengers, we could be prosecuted. When we’ve had a full train arriving – and then passengers for the subsequent departure heading in to the crowd – it’s been chaos. We’ve had panic attacks and even a kid slipping between the platform and a train.”

vic platform 2

 

Comment from ABC:

Please note, our pursuit of the Gibb report is part of a long-standing lobbying campaign for our commuter group and not connected to our legal action against the Department for Transport.

“Commuters experienced another night of chaos on Southern Rail last night, with an unusually high number of issues contributing to the breakdown of service, including a trackside fire. This resulted in delays, cancellations, diversions, overcrowding and skipped stations for passengers, many of whom spent hours trying to get home.

Though the majority of passengers have so far blamed the company, we feel duty-bound to step forward and share what information we have on the impact that issues at Victoria Station may have had on last night’s suffering. The above information from a Network Rail manager shows that important health and safety work to solve passenger congestion has been postponed at Victoria; and that this has not only had an impact on passenger safety, but also the flow of trains in and out of the station.

We are very concerned that if the current layout is struggling to handle the existing flow of passengers, it would probably be unable to cope with passengers turning back against the flow in the event of a fire or a security incident. This could be a recipe for disaster and we would like to see the risk assessment that has deemed the current layout safe.

The wider issue highlighted by this situation is the crisis of funding on our railways, which may have become too large an influence on planning and policy. The income from retail spaces is important in sustaining Network Rail, and may also form an important priority for the Department for Transport; in line with recommendations from the 2011 McNulty report.

We share this information today in the hope of enlightening passengers to the extremely complex causes of this ongoing rail crisis. It is not, and never has been enough to simply blame Southern Rail. It is the Department for Transport that should take responsibility for this rail crisis and we are convinced that they are still avoiding this responsibility in many crucial areas.

We already know (from a response to a question in the House of Lords on April 7th) that the Gibb report was handed to the Department for Transport on 30th December last year. In addition to this, sources have today confirmed that this report was ready for release on April 6th of this year. There is no excuse for the government to hold it back a day longer.

We are still at exactly the point we were a year ago with the Southern Rail crisis, and it is time for every responsible MP to stand up and demand the Gibb report’s immediate release – as a first step to removing this disastrous management contract from Govia Thameslink Railway.”

~ Comment from Emily Yates, co-founder of ABC and freelance journalist.

ABC is currently crowdfunding a court hearing for a judicial review of the Department for Transport. To donate, or get an update on their case; click here.

 

Chris Grayling remains Transport Minister – will he continue to bury vital Southern Rail report?

It was announced in yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle that Chris Grayling is to remain in place as Transport Minister. A quick glance at our Twitter timeline will tell you just how outraged commuters are about this – Grayling is widely blamed for his refusal to solve the Southern Rail crisis, despite the company being in special measures for nearly two years.

It is exactly six months since hundreds of commuters marched to the doors of the Department for Transport, demanding that Grayling either intervene in the Southern Rail management contract, or resign. He did neither: instead he chose to lay insult upon injury to southern passengers by withholding an essential report into the causes of the Southern Rail crisis.

The star railwayman Chris Gibb was touted by the Transport Minister back in September as the best person to analyse and fix the problems on Southern. However, the “Gibb report” has now been under lock and key at the Department for Transport for nearly six months, denying the public their right to a solution – and their right to answers – after suffering through this unprecedented rail crisis.

ABC protest at DfT December credit - Bradley Rees

The General Election results – is there a “Southern Fail vote”?

Yesterday’s reshuffle came after disastrous election results for the Conservatives in many vital seats in the Southern Rail region. Conservative MPs lost their seats in Brighton Kemptown, Croydon Central and Eastbourne; while Amber Rudd narrowly hung onto her Hastings seat with a 346 majority, and Labour’s Peter Kyle achieved a landslide victory of 18,000 votes in Hove.

Nobody can prove how much the public sentiment on Southern Rail affected these results, but we can remind you of the responses to our ABC Passenger Survey of December 2016, based on an in-depth questionnaire completed by 1000 commuters.

MP doing all they can

next election conservatives

The Gibb report must be released immediately – and in full.

Nobody who is watching our campaign could have failed to notice our pursuit of the Gibb report over the past six months. This vital report into the true causes of the Southern Rail crisis remains under lock and key at the Department for Transport, and has been reported by Graeme Paton of The Times to be heavily critical of the DfT’s role – Paton’s source said: “Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail don’t come well out of this, but the report is scathing of the DfT. It is dynamite.”

While ABC campaigners have spent months pursuing FOI requests on the Gibb report, Caroline Lucas MP led the pursuit in the House of Commons, asking two Parliamentary questions and finally forcing Paul Maynard MP to admit they would be holding it back until after the election – a decision she called “deeply undemocratic and an absolute disgrace”.

Our election demands went viral last month, receiving support from many Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green candidates on the urgent need for DfT accountability, disabled access, and the stripping of the Southern Rail contract. We were especially pleased to see the Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald pick up the baton on Gibb – his stance on Southern Rail is reasonable and well-informed, as you’ll observe in this recent interview.

Andy McDonald tweet

Meanwhile, Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing, has tweeted that the Gibb report “must now be published without delay”. We are glad to gain support on this issue from at least one Conservative MP; after all, this is a crisis that affects the daily life of every southern constituent and should always have been a cross-party issue.

Loughton tweet 2

We are now asking all MPs to ensure that the Department for Transport stays true to its commitment to publish the Gibb report by the end of the second financial quarter – as they have already promised us in response to our FOI requests. This means that the Gibb report must be released by the end of June at the latest – and furthermore, must be published in full.

This is a matter of urgent public interest in the south, and has ramifications for transport policy all over the UK, not to mention our country’s democratic values. For Theresa May’s government to be talking about bringing in further restrictions to the right to strike when they have not even appraised the causes of this unprecedented crisis is at best premature, and at worst, ideologically motivated.

With a recent interview putting the Director of Operations Planning at Southern Rail on record as saying he “hasn’t seen the final Gibb report” we should all be asking louder than ever – to what extent is this failing rail company being micro-managed by the Department for Transport?

Please follow ABC on Facebook and Twitter to get daily updates on our campaigns – we have lots of news on the way this month.

 

 

#SouthernFail election demands from the Association of British Commuters

With the snap general election fast approaching, there is no better time for the Association of British Commuters to restate the demands we’ve been making throughout the Southern Rail crisis. We will be addressing all former and prospective MPs with these demands and requesting their full response – so we can tell you which candidates have the best positions on Southern Rail in advance of June 8th.

1. Independent Public Inquiry into the relationship between Govia Thameslink Railway and the Department for Transport.

2. The return of guaranteed assistance for disabled passengers on services currently branded as Southern Rail – best achieved through the “Guard Guarantee”.

3. Immediate removal of the TGSN contract from Govia and passenger representation in any solution; which must take into account the findings of the Chris Gibb report.

Why are these demands so important and how will they solve the Southern Rail crisis? – our demands in depth:

1. Independent public inquiry into the relationship between Govia and the DfT, to encompass civil service ethics.

Southern Rail is not a typical franchise. It is a subcontractor to the government in what has been one of the UK’s most poorly judged and catastrophic rail management contracts. The company has been in special measures for nearly two years, and is known to be in serious breach of its performance benchmarks – issues that far predate the industrial action on the network. To this day, the government postpones its verdict on force majeure (Southern’s defence for its excessive failure) and has just succeeded in burying the Chris Gibb report under the veil of ‘purdah’ rules around the upcoming general election. The Gibb report is believed to give a final analysis of the true responsibility for the Southern Rail crisis, and was reported by Graeme Paton of The Times to be heavily critical of the government’s role in particular – his source said: “Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail don’t come well out of this, but the report is scathing of the DfT. It is dynamite.” Meanwhile, the DfT are already under investigation by parliamentary watchdog the National Audit Office for their management of the GTR franchise.

It is also widely believed that the year-long industrial dispute on Southern is in fact a dispute-by-proxy, with the Department for Transport in the driving seat. Indeed, the civil servant Peter Wilkinson gave forewarning of the industrial upheaval back in February 2016 at a town hall meeting organised by Croydon MP Gavin Barwell. He said: “Over the next three years we’re going to be having punch ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support… They can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place.” The same Peter Wilkinson, MD of Passenger Services at the DfT, was also recently the subject of a Guardian expose over the allegation that he awarded contracts to Govia while also the director and majority shareholder of First Class Partnerships; a consultancy that had Govia as a long-standing client.

Questions about the oversight of the civil service do not end there. Govia is also the owner of the so-called Independent Penalty Fares Appeal Service, itself the subject of a Guardian expose in February 2015 which showed that customers were paying unacceptable ‘admin fees’ even in the case of a successful appeal. Shockingly, the Independent Penalty Fare Appeals Service is still in Govia’s hands, despite them also running both Southern and Southeastern franchises. In the case of the Southern management contract in particular, we believe that the issue of penalty fares requires a comprehensive review. It is a simple fact of their contract that Govia is paid a flat fee for running services, so the only way they can logically increase their income is by cost-cutting, deskilling, and adapting staff roles towards revenue protection (and thus, away from disabled access).

It is vital that the Department for Transport are finally compelled to release the details of their management contract with Govia, and the ‘remedial plan’ that announced their adapted performance benchmarks back in February 2016. Both these documents remain heavily redacted; allowing both Govia and the Department for Transport to completely evade accountability for a crisis that has already cost the taxpayer £38 million and counting. And that’s not to mention the total impact on the lives, families and livelihoods of the public – including an estimated £300 million loss to the economy in the South.

2. The return of guaranteed assistance for disabled passengers on services currently branded as Southern Rail – best achieved through the “Guard Guarantee”.

Conditions on Southern Rail have improved for regular commuters over the last three months, but we should not forget that this period has actually been the most stressful time yet for disabled passengers; dozens of whom have been left behind on platforms or have even had to throw themselves between the doors of trains to get assistance. Hundreds more – especially wheelchair users who live at rural stations – are now anxious about whether they can still spontaneously travel, since Southern Rail have suggested there is “no cast-iron guarantee” that assistance will be available at all stations.

Contrary to their claim that 0.06% of trains will run without a second staff member in “exceptional circumstances”, Southern Rail’s estimate of the number of trains running DOO keeps changing. The estimate was recently reported to be over 8,200 a year, and the most recent internal report that ABC has seen suggests 50+ trains were running without an on-board supervisor allocated on Sunday 21st May alone. This is a far cry from the 1 in 1750 trains that Southern Rail originally claimed would run without a second staff member – an estimate that would have equated to one to two trains per day. Considering Southern Rail’s contractual incentives (as queried in part one above), there are few in doubt that disabled people’s access will now be increasingly compromised by Southern Rail for the sake of cost-cutting on the network; and the redirection of resources into revenue protection.

The guarantee of a second member of staff on trains is a binary point and needs to finally be recognised as such. Unstaffed trains running to unstaffed stations constitute a breach of the Equality Act in creating a ‘policy, practice or criterion’ which actively discriminates – and this is the case whether there are 2, 50 or 2,000 unstaffed trains per day. It is not just ABC, disabled passengers and striking railway workers who are saying this – only last month we saw the highly respected railwayman Peter Rayner (one of the original architects of DOO under British Rail) break ranks with the rail industry to say the same.

Adequate staffing to ensure that Southern Rail conforms to the Equality Act can be achieved in one of two ways: 1) by a guaranteed member of staff on every train or 2) the staffing of every station from first to last. When you consider that 33 rural stations on the Southern network are completely unstaffed, and add that to the vital public security benefits of having a properly trained guard on the train; the restoration of the guard guarantee seems undeniably  the best solution. It has the added benefit of ending the industrial dispute and ensuring that any major changes to working practices are done slowly and surely, with proper care to camera equipment, dispatch procedure, and disabled access.

3. Immediate removal of the TGSN contract from Govia and passenger representation in any solution; which must take into account the findings of the Chris Gibb report.

We have campaigned all year for Govia to lose its management contract, and this remains an immediate demand of our campaign; as well as dozens of other passenger groups and MPs across London and the South. Public trust in the company is at such a catastrophic level that even the Alliance of Chambers of Commerce have spent months warning shareholders of their involvement with Govia’s parent company, The Go Ahead Group. One major shareholder, JP Morgan, finally reduced their interest in the brand just yesterday.

The removal of the TGSN franchise should be accompanied by the immediate publication of the suppressed Chris Gibb report on the true extent of the failings of Southern Rail. There is no excuse whatsoever for this report to be suppressed until after the General Election, when it offers us, finally, a proper analysis on the parties to blame for the Southern Rail crisis. The DfT’s unique management contract with Govia Thameslink Railway was always a poorly judged and unwieldy type of mega-franchise, and it may be that Gibb has recommended that the franchise be broken up into smaller parts. Whatever advice the report suggests, we demand that it is taken into account; and that passengers are given significant representation in any solution.

Furthermore, we believe that the endless industrial dispute on Southern Rail could have been easily solved back in September with a ScotRail type agreement, guaranteeing a second member of staff on all trains and thus conforming to the requirements of the Equality Act and the DfT’s Public Sector Equality Duty. The real circumstances of the industrial dispute, and the details of Southern Rail’s management contract, have been shrouded in secrecy; and we suspect that with the endless talks between Southern management, RMT and Aslef, we are watching little more than a farce. There has to be a limit to the carte blanche with which this company has been allowed to operate – and a proper calling to account of the DfT over public safety and accessibility standards – before this dispute really does spread nationwide.

ABC’s election plan

We will be asking all former MPs and candidates in the Southern Rail region to respond to the points above, and to account for their position on the Southern Rail crisis over the course of 2016-17. As always, we extend our invitation to MPs from every political party and will endorse all those who wish to support our three campaign demands

For passengers, we are soon to launch a “Southern Fail election app”, which will come pre-loaded with all major parties, MPs and constituencies, in order to help commuters be heard on their feelings about this vital election issue.

On party politics and the renationalisation debate:

As a campaign, we do not support any one party, and insist on staying focused on the issues of justice and transparency in UK transport; on which our non-profit organisation was founded. We can only succeed in this aim by being scrupulously focused on these issues, and our lobbying on the Southern Rail crisis will continue in exactly the same way whatever government ends up in power.

It’s also important for us to make clear that we do not take a position on the renationalisation debate – and this is not because we like to sit on the fence! Rather, it is important for the clarity of our #SouthernFail campaign that it does not get conflated into a general call for renationalisation. The Southern Rail crisis is unique because it is driven by the worst of both private industry and state stranglehold – and it’s essential that we keep attention focused on these specific circumstances.

To stay in touch with ABC’s election news, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

*this article was edited on 28.05.17. to correct an error – it is in fact the Alliance of Chambers of Commerce who have been writing to shareholders about the Southern Rail crisis, not the Sussex Chambers of Commerce as previously stated.

The truth about Chris Gibb and Southern Rail’s late night timetable changes…

Southern Rail’s late night timetable changes begin tomorrow, after the announcement earlier this month that late night trains between London Victoria and East Croydon will be cancelled indefinitely.

This has been met with angry reactions from late-night travelers, shift workers and even TfL, who complained that they had only been given three weeks notice of the changes, instead of the standard three months, according to Inside Croydon. For commuters, the notice period wasn’t quite so generous – we got just two weeks.

The reason for these changes is to allow Network Rail to perform essential maintenance work at night. It’s not in itself a bad plan, as East Croydon to Victoria operates as a 24-hour railway, making it particularly poor at resilience. But, why was this announcement so sudden? We asked this question of several people in the rail establishment and it led us to an answer – the late-night timetable changes are a recommendation from the Chris Gibb report. If you’d like to substantiate this, take a look at the recommendations he made for the West Coast Main Line in 2012 (same plan was used) or pose a question to Southern Rail, Network Rail or the Department for Transport directly.

Chris Gibb’s report has been suppressed by the government for nearly five months, and will now be held back until after the General Election. Chris Gibb is the star railwayman brought in to fix the problems on Southern Rail back in September 2016, so it is outrageous that the government refuse to release this report when by doing so they could finally explain to the public why the franchise has gone so badly wrong. In the meantime, MPs like Chris Philp still try to push the agenda of anti-strike laws in advance of the General Election – wouldn’t it be more reasonable for him to assess all parties’ true culpability for the crisis first and actually read the Gibb report?

It has been reported by Graeme Paton of The Times that the report is heavily critical of the government’s role in the Southern Rail crisis. His source said: “GTR and Network Rail don’t come well out of this, but the report is scathing of the DfT. It is dynamite.” It is not difficult to imagine, therefore, why it is being suppressed until after the General Election (if indeed it will ever reach the public). In all our months of chasing the report through FOI requests, just one MP has stood up and chased the report in Parliament: Caroline Lucas finally got an answer from Rail Minister Paul Maynard last month, calling his decision “deeply undemocratic and an absolute disgrace.”

ABC’s co-founder Emily Yates challenged Southern Rail on BBC Sussex two weeks ago – claiming that the late-night timetable changes were a recommendation in the Chris Gibb report and that this was being deliberately concealed. When pushed by the host Neil Pringle, Southern’s Director of Operations Planning admitted that he “had not seen the final Gibb report”. A single question now hangs in the air: If Southern Rail’s own Director of Operations Planning hasn’t seen the Gibb report, then just how badly is this company being micro-managed by the Department for Transport?

 

ABC will continue to ask questions throughout the General Election period, and we’ll soon be launching an updated version of our #SouthernFail app to help you tell your MP how you feel about their performance on Southern Rail! Stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook channels for updates.

If you’d like to support our upcoming protests, election plans and legal action against the DfT, please sign up to our newsletter here.

A full list of late-night services to be scrapped can be found here.

London Bridge Protest this Wednesday: ABC join Transport for All for Southern Rail challenge!

With all that Southern Rail commuters have suffered over the year-long rail crisis, there is one group that has been under-represented. Disabled and elderly people are suffering daily uncertainty since the implementation of DOO, with the roll back of ‘turn up and go’ access at dozens of stations.

We have fought as hard as we can on this issue and have been met with a wall of silence from both Southern Rail and the government. So, we’ll be taking to the station platform once again to make our voices heard; and stand in solidarity with those who no longer have the freedom and flexibility that the rest of us take for granted.

SIGN UP HERE: Please join us for the London Bridge protest this Wednesday at 6pm.

Where and When?

17:00-17:30 – Short briefing at the Heeltap bar, Borough Highstreet, SE1 1NX, before walking together from 17:30 to London Bridge Station
18:00 – Meet on the upper concourse of London Bridge Station for the start of the protest. The protest will be taking place outside the building.

The Message

Transport for All hear daily of the unacceptable treatment faced by so many disabled and older travellers on our Railways. Whether it’s booked assistance failing to turn up, inaccessible platforms or a lack of accessible facilities on trains – what is clear is that our railways are failing disabled and older passengers.

Southern Rail’s withdrawal of ‘turn up and go’ assistance comes after the controversial introduction of driver only operation on their network. Without guards to provide assistance there is no guarantee that disabled and older people will be able to board or leave the train at unmanned stations.

The normalisation of 24-hour advance booking across the entire Southern Rail network is a giant backwards step for access rights and we refuse to accept that disabled people should be paying the price.

Speakers

Speakers will include the paralympian Anne Wafula Strike, Faryal Velmi and Alan Benson of TfA, and junior doctor Hannah Barham Brown.

**We’ll also be hosting an exclusive premiere of a new song from “Southern Fail: The Musical”, performed by Mark Brailsford of Brighton’s The Treason Show!**

Hannah Barham-Brown, junior doctor:

“As a doctor I have no idea when I will be leaving work or even going to work. It’s impossible for me to book 24 hours in advance for my travel, and I cannot be 2 hours late for work at a busy hospital while I wait to board a train. We’re not asking rail companies for perfection, we’re just asking for the very basic access that we need to go about our everyday lives.”

Faryal Velmi, Director of Transport for All:

“It’s shameful that Southern Rail are allowing disabled passengers to bear the brunt of their failures to deliver a reliable service. We have heard daily from disabled transport users stranded on freezing platforms, or forced to crawl onto trains when rail companies have failed to assist them. This unacceptable backwards step for access simply cannot be allowed to stand so we’re coming together to demand that Southern Rail reverse their decision”

Emily Yates, Co-founder of Association of British Commuters:

“We believe that Southern Rail is turning the clock back on access rights; just another part of the collateral damage that has been caused by the Department for Transport’s year-long war with the unions. We urgently need nationwide standards of accessibility in relation to DOO – not only for the sake of disabled travelers but also to prevent the dispute spreading nationwide. Ultimately, this is the responsibility of the Department for Transport, whose duty it is to hold train operating companies to account and ensure they comply with Equality law.”

About our alliance with Transport for All

Transport for All are the UK’s foremost defenders of access rights for the disabled and we were overjoyed to welcome them to our judicial review case last month. They have now written to the High Court asking to intervene and provide evidence of the extensive impact the Southern Rail crisis has had – and still has – on disabled passengers.

Transport for All will be represented by Chris Fry, the award-winning Equality and Human Rights lawyer who recently gained a significant Supreme Court victory on the right to bus access.

We are looking forward to working with them to set a new precedent for rail access rights – the aim of our case is to compel the Department for Transport to accept their responsibility for enforcing the Equality Act 2010, and ensure that all train operating companies comply in future.

Please join us at London Bridge this Wednesday! – SIGN UP HERE

Legal Update: Transport for All to intervene in ABC’s judicial review

Work continues towards our judicial review and we are delighted to announce that the disabled and older people’s charity Transport for All has now asked to intervene in the case. Transport for All have written today to the Royal Court of Justice, to express their interest in submitting further witness statements expressing the full range of assistance failures disabled people have had to deal with during the tenure of Southern Rail.

Like ABC, Transport for All has received dozens of complaints from people experiencing regular failures of assistance on Southern Rail. They are now being represented by Chris Fry of Fry Law on the matter – the very same team behind Doug Paulley’s recent victory for bus accessibility at the Supreme Court.

It is the first time that the Secretary of State’s obligations, as relates to the Equality Act and rail franchising, will come in front of the Court; meaning that the case is very likely to be precedent-setting for rail transport. ABC could not be happier to hear that such a well-respected organisation and law firm will now be joining the case.

With in-depth legal work continuing on the Equality of Access issue, we have also made some minor amendments to the case this month. Such amendments are not unusual in the judicial review process, which is rather less combative than regular litigation. This means that our new deadline for a response from the DfT is now 23rd March. Given this delay, we do not believe the Court will find any further extension requests from the DfT to be reasonable. We feel confident, therefore, that we will have their response by 23rd March, and it will then be a matter of awaiting the Court’s decision on whether the judicial review can proceed.

Statement from Transport for All

Accessible public transport is a life-line to inclusion for many disabled people who disproportionately rely on it to go about their everyday lives. The Southern Rail crisis has caused disruption and misery to disabled and older people, leaving many unable to travel to work and increasingly isolated. Yet throughout the strikes the Department for Transport has remained silent on this issue.

This case would be the first test case to the Secretary of State’s duty to uphold Disability Equality in the franchising process, and could cause a seismic shift in the Department for Transport’s approach to protecting the rights of disabled and older people.

Transport for All hope that our experience in the wide range of obstacles disabled and older people can face when accessing the transport network, and the impact of Southern Rail’s failures on our ability to travel will assist the court when they consider the case.

Transport for All’s accessible transport hotline receives dozens of calls from disabled and older people who find themselves unable to access the rail network because they simply can’t rely on assistance from staff.

“On roughly two-thirds of my journeys, when I arrive at Victoria there is no one there to assist me with a ramp, even though the staff at my home station have phoned ahead to let Southern Rail staff at Victoria know. So I end up stuck on the train” commented Chris Stapleton, a wheelchair user. “The effect of Southern’s unreliable assistance is that every train journey becomes horribly stressful, and every time I arrive at my destination I have a tight knot of anxiety in my stomach – will there be someone with a ramp to assist me? Will I be locked into the train again, or have to get random strangers to go and hunt for staff, or be forced to shout or press the emergency alarm?”

For more information or comment please contact catherine@transportforall.org.uk

Have you been affected by accessibility issues on Southern Rail?

If so, please do get in touch with Transport for All, or email Catherine directly on catherine@transportforall.org.uk.

You can also report your experience to ABC via contact@associationofbritishcommuters.com. We will then let you know when we will be taking further witness statements.

Donations to our legal campaign

Our next round of crowdfunding for the case will open after we receive permission from the Court. In the meantime, we are running a big campaign on very slim resources. If you are in a position to donate to ABC, you can do so here.