Gordon Nardell QC and James Potts represent three rail industry trade unions – RMT, TSSA and ASLEF – in judicial review proceedings challenging two planks of the government’s rail franchising programme. The unions complain that the Department for Transport (DfT) failed to re-consult the public before issuing the Invitation to Tender for the Inter City East Coast franchise. The line is currently operated by public sector body Directly Operated Railways (DOR), with high levels of reliability and passenger satisfaction. DfT originally consulted in 2010, but recognised the need to re-consult in 2012 in the light of major changes in franchising policy following the change of government. Since then the policy framework has changed even more radically following the collapse of the Inter City West Coast competition in 2012, leading to the Laidlaw and Brown reviews. The unions also challenge DfT’s extensive use of direct franchise awards to incumbent operators in the wake of the West Coast fiasco. Under the 2007 EU Rail Regulation, direct awards should only be made where there is an “emergency” and no alternative. DfT wrongfully failed to consider DOR as an alternative despite its record of success running the East Coast service. The High Court will hear the unions’ permission application on 11 July.