Union blasts plan to cut hundreds of South Western Railway services next year

A RAIL union has blasted proposals to cut hundreds of South Western Railway services next year, calling the consultation behind plans a ‘sham.’

Monday, 20th September 2021, 9:07 am

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT)is demanding answers from the government, Network Rail and South Western Railway (SWR) over the research commissioned by SWR.

The consultation, that formally closed yesterday (September 19), used market research of passengers conducted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to make projections for future passenger demand across the SWR network.

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Commuters ride a crowded South Western Railway train on the Portsmouth to London Waterloo line. Picture date: Monday January 8, 2018. Photo: Carey Tompsett/PA Wire

RMT has unearthed that SWR commissioned three separate pieces of market research of passengers conducted in May 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic during the first lockdown, October 2020, as the second wave of Covid-19 hit, and in January 2021, immediately after the second national lockdown, a 7-month time period when the Government was specifically instructing passengers to avoid using rail where possible.

General secretary for RMT, Mick Lynch, said: ‘Our evidence proves clear as day that SWR’s cuts consultation is a sham and is should be completely discredited. The consultation may have closed but our campaign continues.

‘To propose severe cuts to services based on flimsy research conducted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and over two and a half years before the new timetable is implemented is staggering, but to make it worse SWR decide to completely ignore the most detailed study into passenger demand across the South West Mainline services conducted in recent years.’

RMT also found that a detailed study by Network Rail on the future of South West Mainline services, published in July 2021, was completely omitted from SWR’s consultation.

Network Rail’s study published detailed post-Covid-19 demand projections which in every scenario specified a need for increased capacity on the South West Mainline network, directly contradicting the lower demand projections from South Western Railway’s own market research. RMT claim this emerging evidence brings the entire South Western Railway consultation process into disrepute.

Mr Lynch added: ‘No one can have any confidence in this process which is clearly being driven by the Government as a cost cutting measure and using Covid-19 as a cover to launch an unprecedented attack on rail services and rail workers’ jobs and pay.

‘Almost 3,000 passengers have supported our campaign and directly rejected these cuts proposals and now we know the research the service cuts are based on is discredited our message to SWR and the Government is clear: These cuts to rail services should be stopped immediately and in the year the UK hosts vital climate talks at COP26 the Government should be wholly focused on cutting emissions, not rail services.’

South Western runs services between Portsmouth and London Waterloo.

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