Open Letter: Equality of Access

On 31st October, we announced the legal grounds on which we will proceed to judicial review against the Department for Transport. Our legal argument takes on the unlawful lack of transparency from the DfT, and their failure to monitor the Govia franchise; leading to a breach of the Equality Act 2010. Please add your comments below and help us urgently raise awareness of access issues on Southern Rail.

The Association of British Commuters believes that it is totally unacceptable, unlawful and immoral that disabled passengers have to book assistance as long as 48 hours in advance, and, even then, are not assured of a service. Our lawyers will make the argument that, by failing to monitor the franchise, the Secretary of State allows Govia to indirectly discriminate against disabled passengers; contrary to sections 19 and 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

If DOO becomes the norm on the network, this could mean a permanent breach of the Equality Act in cases where unstaffed trains stop at unstaffed platforms, particularly in rural areas across the South. This is a situation that Ann Bates OBE has warned could set back equality of access rights thirty years. In line with her expert argument that Southern’s plans for DOO will breach the Equality Act, it is vital that the definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ is not allowed to become a get-out clause for Govia.

The Transport Select Committee backs up our argument with their report of 14th October, of which paragraph 56 states the following: “We are concerned that no official impact assessment has been made of the potential effects of DOO on disabled people’s access to the railway. We recommend the DfT and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) jointly commission research into the potential effects of DOO on the “turn up and go” accessibility of the railway to disabled people who require assistance getting on and off trains. The Department should draw on this research to issue guidance to train operating companies on the measures that should be taken to mitigate potential detrimental effects on disabled people’s access. It should ensure that actions are taken to guarantee that disabled rail passengers receive the support to which they are entitled.”

For up-to-date information on how these changes seem set to impact disabled passengers, see a list of the dozens of stations affected, and an updated accessibility map here.

How you can help:

We urgenly call on disabled passengers to contribute comments to this blog on their experience using Southern Rail, which will be used to aid public awareness of the issue. Please keep your comments short, clear and concise (preferably under 80 words), and include any important dates/locations of incidents.

Please be informed that we will share these comments with the press, MPs, and the Select Committee for Transport; and may contact contributors later with a full witness statement form should we need to include these statements in our court case.




2 thoughts on “Open Letter: Equality of Access”

  1. I am a disabled pensioner, wheelchair dependant, and I am too frightened of becoming stranded to use Southern’s services to travel to my house on the South Coast, with the result that I have now lost the house I inherited, which isapable of being converted to my needs, which my current accommodation is not as the council have sequestered and are selling it. Normally, I would have travelled from Andover, via Basingstoke to Fareham on SWT, then changed to Southern to complete my journey along the South Coast. As I believe there is currently no Southern service West of Chichester, this alone makes this journey impractical. The other way is through London and down to Brighton, which is already using DOO trains


  2. One thing that worries me is the late calling of platforms when trains are delayed. Yesterday, there was heavy rain so the floor at Victoria Station was wet. The Brighton train was called four minutes after it was supposed to depart – and just the front 8 carriages were in service – and a man rushing to get his train, knocked into me, nearly pushing me over. I’m pregnant and can’t move about as easy as I used to and I worry about people pushing into me (unintentionally I’m sure) all the time. I’m sure the man didn’t intend to knock into me but I really do struggle to believe that Southern management care about customers’ safety when they give us so little time to safely board trains. At Brighton, it’s the same problem with the 08.46 every day, so I’ve stopped using it. There was one woman on crutches who was exhausted trying to get to the carriage.


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