SWR train on track

Lib Dem Rails against Train Cut Plans

A leading Liberal Democrat London Assembly member has voiced her opposition to South Western Railway (SWR)’s plans to cut services in Merton and beyond.

Hina Bokhari, who has also been on Merton Council as a representative for West Barnes since 2018, has started a petition which is closing in on its 750-signature target.

The proposed changes would see 13% fewer services from Wimbledon, 17% from Raynes Park, 33% fewer from Motspur Park, and a halving of services between stations in Merton and Epsom.

Speaking at a City Hall discussion on the matter, Bokhari laid out the arguments against the cuts, which had already been raised by Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney in a House of Commons debate in October.

She said: “I know how frustrated and angry residents are about these cuts.

“They are premature and make assumptions about the demand for travel which we simply do not know will exist in a year’s time.

“I’d love to see their crystal ball because I do not believe it.”

Bokhari’s concerns are the latest in a series of verbal protests and petitions against the changes, due to come in a year from now.

Concerns about more central parts of South West London’s train services were raised during September with Earlsfield, Queenstown Road, Wandsworth Town and Putney all facing cuts.

At the time, SWR said that the changes would still see services running at 93% of pre-pandemic capacity, compared to their projection that customer journeys would only be at 76% of pre-pandemic levels.

But campaigners have argued that with passenger levels in London having grown in the lead up to the pandemic, up 3% from 2018 to 2019, and emissions from trains having reduced by more than 10% in the same period, this will discourage people from returning to an environmentally friendly form of travel that was being increasingly used.

Bokhari drew attention to this too, particularly in light of the COP26 climate conference, and the urgent need to reduce emissions from travel that was raised in the Glasgow summit.

She said: “We should be getting people out of cars and onto trains, and yet these proposals certainly will lead to the growth of car traffic.

“These cuts are bad for the environment, bad for health and bad for transport.”

Bokhari’s petition is just under 85% of the way toward its target for signatures and can be found here.

Featured Image: Andi North

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