TRANSPORT Secretary Chris Grayling has got two weeks to produce a report on Southern Rail or face a judicial review on his handling of the crisis-hit franchise.
The High Court ruling yesterday came following an application by the Association of British Commuters (ABC) for a judicial review into the way Mr Grayling has dealt with Southern.
A wave of industrial action by unions over driver-only trains has seen the railway operator hit by a year of disruption. High Court judge Mr Justice Ouseley said he was requiring the minister to publish a report within 14 days.
The court heard that Mr Grayling had taken an “unreasonable” delay of 14 months to decide whether the disruption was caused by a so-called force majeure — whether it was outside Southern’s control.
However the judge rejected the commuter group’s argument that the government was in breach of equality legislation because of problems with access suffered by disabled passengers.
ABC co-founder Emily Yates said outside court: “We have already had a precedent set when the judge agreed you should not wait until kingdom come for a decision to be made.
“We are disappointed he did not accept our case about disability access, but we regard today as a victory — and our campaign will continue.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “Passengers should not have had to go to the courts to seek accountability. “Ultimately, the buck stops with the government.
“Tory ministers, who designed and awarded the franchise, have been ducking their responsibility for Southern’s abysmal service and for directing this unnecessary industrial dispute.”
He added that a Labour government would take Southern back into public ownership.
A Department for Transport spokesman said the government was “more than happy” to reach a verdict within 14 days.