Rail commuters have launched a legal challenge against the Department of Transport (DfT) for their failure to deal with the ongoing dispute between Southern Rail and workers’ unions.

More than 1,300 people donated £26,240 to the Association of British Commuters (ABC) to instigate a judicial review against the Government, claiming that they “have abstained from their responsibility to ensure safety and service by intervening in a franchise that is clearly falling apart.”

A spokesperson for ABC said: “Commuters have long since passed the point of exhaustion, and it is a matter of shame for the DfT that we have had to go to such great lengths to demand action to be taken”.

ABC’s case against the DfT claims that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has acted unlawfully by failing to determine whether GTR had breached the terms of its franchise contract, as well as failing to comply with duties to ensure access to train services for disabled passengers.

They added: “Our final grounds are the result of five months’ hard work, and the extensive research of dozens of volunteers who have supported our campaign by contributing their time and professional skills”.

The commuter group was set up on Facebook by disgruntled passengers fed up with the continued disruption to Southern rail services.

The Department for Transport and GTR both declined to comment on the ongoing proceedings.

The news comes amid speculation by Rail Business Intelligence magazine that the Government is looking into nationalising the rail line.

It has been claimed that the Department for Transport have several options on the table, including splitting Southern Rail from its parent company, Govia Thameslink, to full government control of the franchise until a new contract could be let.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Instead of dragging this farce out any longer the Government should now do the decent thing, pull the plug on the GTR contract, take the lines under public control and draw a line under this shambles”.

Talks between Southern and ASLEF, another union in dispute with the company over driver-only train services, resumed last week

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Daniel Green

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