An accessible transport group has added its voice to the legal case being brought by commuters over the Department for Transport (DfT) handling of the Southern rail dispute.
Transport for All believes that it has evidence of the adverse effects of the long-running dispute on disabled and older passengers.
The campaign group has written to the court asking to be allowed to intervene in the judicial review being brought by the Association of British Commuters (ABC).
The group said: “Transport for All (TfA), with assistance from Fry Law, wrote to the Royal Courts of Justice to ask to intervene in Association of British Commuters (ABC) judicial review case on the Department for Transport’s handling of the Southern Rail crisis.
“Last month the ABC applied for a judicial review of the Secretary of State’s approach to the Southern Rail crisis. The case was crowdfunded with total donations reaching over £26,000.
“The case is being brought to address the lawfulness of the DfT’s approach to enforcing the Southern Rail management contract and the failure of Southern Rail to provide adequate access to disabled passengers.
“TfA will be asking to providing evidence on Southern rail’s failure to provide adequate assistance and the impact this has had on the disabled and older passengers.
“Accessible public transport is a life line to inclusion for many disabled people who disproportionally rely on it to go about their everyday lives.
“The Southern rail crisis caused disruption and misery to disabled and older people, leaving many unable to travel to work and increasingly isolated.
“Our accessible transport helpline 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.”
The group quoted wheelchair user Chris Stapleton as saying: “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.
“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?”
Transport for All said: “This case would be the first case test to the Secretary of State’s duty to uphold disability equality in the franchising process and could cause a seismic shift in the DfT’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.”
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