Disgruntled commuters plan Victoria protest as they step up crowdfunding campaign

Posted On 26 Sep 2016 at 3:17 pm

A disgruntled commuters’ group is planning a protest at Victoria Station in London at 6pm on Thursday (29 September).

The Association of British Commuters said that the “Southern Justice” demo – to be held on the concourse at Victoria – would have a justice theme.

The organisers urged people to come dressed in, say, a judge’s wig or a robber’s outfit – or carrying a swag bag.

The protesters, who are angry over the longstanding problems on the Southern Rail network, will be joined by supporters of Bring Back British Rail.

The Association of British Commuters hopes to bring a judicial review – a type of court case – looking at the handling of the Southern Rail franchise by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The believe that the problems at Southern’s owner – Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) – are in part caused by the DfT.

A crowdfunding campaign – on the Crowdjustice website – to raise money to pay for the case passed its initial £10,000 target within days of going live. It has now raised more than £18,000.

The campaigners have eight days left to reach a “stretch target” of £25,000. It will take just over 300 more people to chip in the running average of about £20 which is less than many pay for their train ticket to work.

The group said: “The Southern Rail crisis cannot be resolved until we achieve the clarity that can only be found in essential documents currently redacted or undisclosed by the DfT.

“They have so far failed to reveal these documents, either to lawyers, the public or to the Parliamentary Select Committee for Transport itself.

“Our call for #SouthernJustice is the commuter’s last resort – no progress can be made until the public are able to assess the contents of these essential documents – the only way to determine if, and how, Govia are in breach of their franchise agreement.

“These include documents referred to in the franchise agreement, the breach notice served on Govia on 7 July 2015 (which the DfT has a clear duty to publish) and the disclosure of a complete copy of February’s remedial plan, by which it is possible to assess whether Govia has been compliant.

“We also feel strongly that the public have a right to see the report by Chris Gibb’s project board of 1st September, which has not been made public.

“Much of the media focuses on a simple narrative of unions v management. We believe this depiction is vastly insufficient in analysing the real timescale and issues behind the crisis and, more worryingly still, the dangers behind a unique kind of ‘management contract’ that may see GTR acting at the behest of the government while the DfT continue to avoid all transparency and accountability.”

ABC campaign co-ordinator Emily Yates said: “We cannot move forward without transparency from the Department for Transport, who hold the key to understanding how this rail catastrophe came about.

“Essential documents remain redacted and withheld and this has massive implications for the whole country – the public have a right to see exactly what has been going on behind the scenes.”

Her colleague Summer Dean said: “The need for transparency has never been more urgent. Commuters are not getting the justice or basic service they deserve. Our call for justice relates not only to untangling the truth behind the crisis but is also made on behalf of hundreds of thousands of commuters who deserve proper compensation, health and safety rights, equality of access and a basic level of service and reliability.”

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