Frustrated demonstrators brand Southern Rail a ‘shambles’ and demand answers at Victoria protest

Demonstrators packed Victoria Station last night to protest the government’s handling of the Southern Rail crisis which has seen thousands of commuters’ journeys interrupted by months of chaos.

The demonstration is part of the Southern Justice campaign by the Association of British Commuters (ABC), advocating transparency and accountability for the crisis that engulfed commuters this summer.

The group blamed Southern’s ‘unravelling’ on long-term and entrenched mismanagement, stating its aim was to highlight the Department for Transport’s (DfT) role and their failure to act.

“We remain frustrated with the lack of answers and accountability from the DfT, and urge them to step up and give the public the transparency it deserves,” said an Association of British Commuters spokesperson.

“It is incomprehensible that a shambles of the scale of Southern Rail should be allowed to continue.

“The public have a right to clarity, and a right to the service they are paying extortionate fares for.”

ABC welcomed more than 100 people over the course of the event, including Carshalton and Wallington MP, Tom Brake.

The Lib Dem MP said: “The demo last night shows passengers are at the end of their tether, and Southern should be at the end of the line.

“Commuters have suffered months of disruption and now want an end to Southern’s disastrous reign.”

ABC is raising money to bring a Judicial Review against the DfT over their handling of the crisis.

As of this afternoon, it has raised £20,305 from more than 1,000 donors, with four days remaining to reach its £25,000 target.

In September, the DfT came under fire for its plans to hand Southern a £20million bailout to improve the service, shortly before Southern operator Go-Ahead announced a £99million profit on the year.

A DfT spokesperson said improving services for Southern passengers is a priority for the government, and that they are committed to a railway that delivers the timely, modern and convenient railway passengers expect.

“Simply changing the management or taking the franchise from Govia Thameslink would not address the issues and would only create uncertainty and cause further disruption,” they said.

Southern announced a new set of RMT Union strikes yesterday, which could see services suffer further disruption into December.

The DfT spokesperson said: “We have been clear that the real solution is for the RMT to bring this dispute to a close.”

Mike Cash, RMT general secretary, responded: “The crisis on Southern Rail is the product of gross managerial incompetence on behalf of Govia Thameslink, mangled up with sheer political impotence by the government as they have stood by and allowed this franchise to descend into chaos.”

Commuters have suffered from months of temporary timetabling put in place by Southern after unprecedented levels of staff shortages in July.

ABC’s fundraising campaign is found here.

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