South Western Railway considers cuts to services post-Covid putting jobs at risk

Report by ITV News Meridian's Mike Pearse

There are fears that hundreds of train services and thousands of jobs are at risk across the South East because of new ways of working following Covid.

South Western Railway (SWR) has become the first train operator to consult on cuts to services after research revealed that four out of 10 rush hour journeys would no longer be made as more people work from home.

Some routes could see the pre-pandemic service cut by a third.

Among the routes affected are the Reading, Basingstoke and Guildford lines.

Unions say it is only a matter of time before all rail companies are required by the Government to make similar reductions. They say it could lead to 5,000 jobs being axed.

Proposed reduction to services include:

  • Portsmouth rush hour services via Basingstoke or Guildford

(8 trains each hour at busy times cut to 5 and off-peak cut from 4 to 3)

  • Reading to Waterloo

(Cut from 4 to 3 an hour)

  • Winchester to Waterloo

(Cut from 5 to 4 an hour)

  • Rush hour into Waterloo 

(Cut from 60 to 53 an hour)

  • Salisbury to Bristol services reduced

Peter Williams, Commercial Director, South Western Railway said: "We have spoken to thousands of customers and expect demand to be reduced in the future.

"We are right sizing our service for the future demand we expect.

"We are expecting the commuter and business market to be lower than in the past.

"We are making sure we account for the service levels we provide, but also we need to provide value for money for the taxpayer who subsidises the railway by billions of pounds."

The company argues that with fewer trains more run on time as the network is less congested.

Research reveals that four out of 10 rush hour journeys would no longer be made Credit: ITV News Meridian

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive, Transport Focus said: "This is an early indication of what is to come, but the climate change emergency is here.

"We need good public transport. The Government has put huge amounts of money into the railway over the years but it has to be attractive to use."

Unions say it's only time before all train companies in the region follow SWR putting hundreds of services and thousands of jobs at risk. 

Far fewer passengers are travelling post-pandemic Credit: ITV News Meridian

Eddie Dempsey, RMT Union said: "This is what we are going to see on the rest of the railway. Services being slashed to protect profits. Fares going up and jobs being cut."

The consultation lasts until the middle of next month with the changes due from December 2022.