The owners of Southern Railway have lost their High Court bid to halt a series of crippling strikes by train drivers.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) argued in the High Court that the action would unlawfully restrict freedom of movement provisions under European Union law, but judge Michael Burton refused to grant an injunction blocking the strikes.
It is the latest blow for beleaguered commuters on the network which has suffered months of upheaval. "Driver-only operation is inherently unsafe".
Southern Director Alex Foulds said: "Tomorrow is the first day when ASLEF's overtime ban will be felt on a non-strike day".
Aslef official Graham Morris told the Press Association: "Southern is deliberately sabotaging the service to strengthen its argument in court by suggesting that Aslef is responsible for the cancellations".
Charles Horton, chief executive of Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), confirmed there will be no services on strike days and "severe disruption" during an ongoing overtime ban.
The company said train services on Friday, when the RMT strike will have ended, would still be severely reduced across much of Southern and on the Gatwick Express.
Any passengers suffering delays of more than two hours will be repaid the cost of their entire return journey.
One rail worker in Eastbourne said: "There is a crew room full of frustrated drivers and guards who are puzzled as to why the company would create this disruption and blame it on us".
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, commented: "The hot-headed ideologues in Chris Grayling's Department for Transport will have had the smirks wiped well and truly off their faces with this news today".
Passengers using the Southern element of the franchise have been victims of a long-running dispute over whether the driver or guard operates the doors.
He said: "We strongly advise people not to travel".
"We had a responsibility to the travelling public to do what we could to stop this unprecedented strike action".
Horton called the strikes "wholly unjustified and unnecessary" and said drivers are already safely operating a third of the UK's trains.
Other changes include a guarantee passengers are repaid in cash rather than vouchers and allowing them to claim for losses caused by missed train connections.
"We brought this action for the benefit of our passengers".
The Court of Appeal listed the hearing for this morning.
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