The Association of British Commuters has accused the Department of Transport (DfT) of an “unlawful lack of transparency” in preparation for its court case against them.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, the commuter group claimed he had failed to inform himself of the facts to monitor the franchise agreement and enforce the obligation to provide an adequate train service for passengers.

They also claimed, if Govia are in breach of their agreement, the DfT had failed to penalise Govia, amounting to unlawful state aid.

Summer Dean, Sussex alumni and co-founder of the Association of British Commuters said:

We continue to hear stories on a daily basis from commuters who have lost their jobs or been forced to move out of the area, so extreme are the conditions for rail users.

More worrying still are the terrible health and safety risks of the network, of which we have written to the DfT and received no response.

The news comes amid continued disruption on Southern services as strike action and repair work takes place. Last Tuesday, an electrical fault and to train tracks resulted in all services to Brighton being cancelled, causing delays for thousands of commuters.

Some customers vented their frustration on Twitter and said hundreds were left in the cold at Three Bridges with no information about replacement bus services to Brighton.

Conservative MP for Lewes Maria Caulfield also pleaded with the Prime Minister at last week’s PMQs for the government to intervene in the dispute.

While we have a country which works for everyone, in Sussex we have a rail network that works for no one.

– Maria Caulfield

Further strike action by the RMT is planned for November 22-23 and December 6-8.

Dean added: “The Secretary of State must act now, with full transparency and acknowledging the urgency of the catastrophe he has allowed to develop.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “Improving rail services for Southern passengers is a priority for us and the operator. We announced last month that Network Rail would deliver £20 million of improvements and appointed a rail industry expert to lead a project board to drive up performance.

“We have responded to correspondence from lawyers acting on behalf of the Association of British Commuters.”

However, RMT General Secretary Mike Cash said that the Transport secretary should “get out of his bunker” and sort the issues with services.

He said: “If the company wasn’t hoarding £100 million in profits, that cash could be invested in renewals and maintenance, easing the intolerable pressure on our rail infrastructure.”

Southern declined to comment.

Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

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Daniel Green

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