A RAIL giant is facing a multi-million pound legal case amid claims passengers were routinely overcharged for train fares.

The operator behind Southern is being sued for £73 million over allegations that 3.2 million passengers paid more than they needed to for trains to London.

The claim against Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which also runs Gatwick Express and Thameslink services, was filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Consumer campaigner Justin Gutmann launched his case this week, claiming commuters to the capital were not given sufficient access to so-called "boundary fares".

He says passengers with London Travelcards should have been offered discounted tickets to stop them from effectively being charged twice for parts of their journey.

Mr Gutmann said: “This claim is the latest step in my campaign to stamp out routine overcharging of millions of passengers by some of Britain’s top rail operators.

The Argus: Justin GutmannJustin Gutmann

"The failure of these companies to make boundary fares more freely available is scandalous and has been going on for years. It’s a practice that needs to stop – and passengers who have overpaid deserve compensation.”

Last month, Mr Gutmann secured legal approval to bring to trial collective actions seeking compensation worth up to £93 million against two other rail operators, the South Western and Southeastern rail franchises, over the same issue.

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He says people with a London Travelcard should be offered discounted tickets taking them from the outer boundary of any zone covered by the card to their final destination.

However, rail companies are accused of not making the "boundary fares" sufficiently available for Travelcard holders to buy, nor making passengers fully aware of their existence.

An estimated 240 million journeys since November 2015 could have benefited from boundary fares if travellers had been aware of them, it is claimed.

The claim states this is a breach of the UK’s competition rules (s.18 of the Competition Act 1998) and an abuse of market powers.

A GTR spokesman said: “We are aware of this proposed claim. Should the claim progress, we will make our submissions to the tribunal in due course.”

Boundary fares allow passengers with Travelcards to travel beyond the zones covered by their card to their destination of choice without paying twice for the part of the journey that is already covered by their Travelcard zones.

For example, if a passenger buys a zones 1-4 Travelcard and needed to go from Waterloo to Reading, they should be able to buy a fare starting from the edge of zone 4 to Reading as they have already paid for the first part of the journey with the Travelcard.

GTR operate various subsidies across the UK including Southern, which serves destinations including Brighton, Hastings, Portsmouth, Southampton, Eastbourne and Milton Keynes.

Thameslink is a key commuter line to central London linking Brighton, St Albans, Bedford, East Grinstead and Luton Airport.

Mr Gutmann, now retired, previously worked for London Underground for eight years before becoming head of research for Citizens’ Advice. He is jointly represented by law firms Charles Lyndon and Hausfeld and Co in the claim.

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