Lawyers are launching a judicial review into the government’s handling of an under-fire train service, after more than 1,300 people donated a total of £26,290 in a month.

The Association of British Commuters (ABC) appealed for help from frustrated Southern Rail passengers last month.

On the group’s crowd funding page, the group stated that it hoped to ensure the train service meets “basic standards of service and reliability”, and prevent passengers suffering “panic attacks, overheating, and disabled people (being) left unable to travel”.

The ABC stated: “On a rail network already stretched to capacity, this summer became a nightmare for commuters on the Southern Rail network.

“Barely a day goes by that we don’t hear of someone losing their job or relocating their home and family due to the sheer impossibility of living with this daily catastrophe.”

Its initial target of £10,000 to fund the early stages of a judicial review was met within just three days, after the initiative was launched on September 4. By October 5, more than £25,000 had been pledged toward the cause.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesperson confirmed the department was corresponding with lawyers acting on behalf of the ABC, and pointed to a £20million investment in the franchise as a sign the government is prioritising the Southern crisis. Less than 24 hours later, the Go-Ahead group, which owns Southern, posted yearly profits of £100m.

GTR, which runs Southern rail services has long provoked passengers’ ire for delays, cancellations and overcrowded conditions. More than 100 angry passengers protested against the franchise at London Victoria last week, while thousands more vented their anger as a PR stunt encouraging Twitter followers to tell the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) what they thought of planned strikes backfired.

Fourteen days of strikes are planned by RMT members on Southern services, with the first day being Tuesday, October 11.

At the end of the month of fundraising, ABC campaign coordinator Emily Yates said: “We, the commuters and travelling public have been ignored by Southern Rail and the Department for Transport throughout the summer.

“We must take hope and strength from the great success of our legal crowd funder and urgently insist on being heard as the Southern Rail infrastructure continues to collapse around us.”

Summer Dean, spokeswoman for the campaign, added: “The public have a right to know why they have suffered such daily stress, inconvenience and danger.

“The disabled have a right to know why they can no longer access rail travel to any reasonable standard.

“Businesses have a right to know why they have suffered such severe economic damage through the collapse of an infrastructure that should have been protected by our government.

“These are the people we are fighting for, and we will not give up.”

A Southern spokesman said: "The subject of a judicial review is a matter for the Department for Transport, but all our efforts remain focused on returning a normal service for our passengers."

A DfT spokesperson 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.”

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