Commuters angered by months of delays and disruption on Southern rail have applied for a judicial review of the government's handling of the crisis.
The Association of British Commuters says ministers have acted unlawfully by failing to determine whether managers have breached franchise obligations.
The RMT and Aslef unions have staged a series of strikes amid the long-running dispute over the role of conductors.
The Department for Transport refused to comment on "ongoing legal proceedings".
Southern's parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway, has been holding talks with the drivers' union Aslef over giving drivers responsibility for opening and closing carriage doors.
RMT members first walked out in April last year and were joined by members of Aslef, making the dispute the longest-running rail strike since the railways were privatised in 1996.
The rail passengers group has also accused transport minister Chris Grayling of failing to comply with his duties under the 2010 Equality Act, causing indirect discrimination to passengers with disabilities.
It said if the court grants it leave to continue, it will launch a crowd funding campaign to raise funds.
A spokesman said: "Our detailed grounds, lodged at court today, are the result of five months' hard work and the extensive research of dozens of volunteers who have supported the campaign by contributing their time and professional skills.
"Our donors, volunteers and supporters are the people who have been hit the hardest by the Southern rail crisis, and they deserve to play a part in finally bringing the government to account.
"We began this process back in September, at a time when we felt we'd already reached our last resort.
"That it has got so much worse, and the DfT have still not acted, now beggars belief," he said.
"We continue to urge the DfT to act decisively and transparently on the future of Southern rail.
"The longer they stand back from this unprecedented rail crisis, the harder it will be to put the pieces back together again."