Cuts to the South Western Railway (SWR) service to Shepperton have been met with opposition from local politicians, residents, and businesses.
The change to service, which comes into force from next Monday, 17 January, will see trains running to Shepperton, which is the sole service for stations such as Hampton and Fulwell, reduced from three to one train in each direction per hour.
SWR says that the change is only temporary and in response to the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, however, those impacted by the changes are not happy and are worried the change is a sign of more permanent things to come.
Jeremy Varns of campaign group SWR Watch said: “Passengers are going to experience a significantly degraded service next week, and this latest round of cuts are on top of the current reduced timetables which have seen 200 fewer services per day, Monday-Friday, compared to pre-pandemic levels.
“The implications for rail users are fewer journey opportunities, longer gaps between trains, services finishing earlier and starting later and the potential for more overcrowding.
“We urgently need a new approach; one where public transport and active travel becomes the favoured option for the majority of journeys.
“In the case of rail, ticket prices must fall and services must become more frequent and convenient. Passengers deserve better.”
The temporary cuts, which have no fixed end date, come alongside other recent proposals to cut SWR services serving south west London.
A consultation was opened last year over proposed reductions in services to Earlsfield, Queenstown Road and Wandsworth Town stations, while there have also been proposed cuts to trains serving stations such as St Margarets and Whitton.
These cuts were opposed in Parliament by Twickenham MP Munira Wilson, who also pre-emptively raised the potential threat of cuts to the Shepperton line which have now become reality.
In a statement to South West Londoner, Munira Wilson said: “I am appalled by SWR’s decision to reduce services on the Shepperton line.
“Local residents who use Hampton and Fulwell stations are already forced to pay staggeringly high fares for what has been a consistently substandard service.
“I told the Government that if there were more cuts to the Shepperton line, “there would not be a service left”.
“When I raised this in Parliament last year, it was a hypothetical example. It is sad to see that SWR has made this a reality.
“This decision is an affront to key workers, students and local businesses who depend on these crucial services on a regular basis yet were not involved in any kind of consultation.
“I am writing a letter of complaint to SWR and will keep local residents updated on the progress of this letter.
“We are in the midst of a climate crisis. This is not the time to be giving the green light to more car travel in and around London.
“SWR must reverse this disastrous decision immediately and publish in full the evidence they have for justifying such a slash to services.”
Opposition to the cuts have been well voiced on social media by businesses and residents alike, with many local business owners fearing the impact of a potential reduction in footfall because of the cuts, combined with other limits on transport such as the closures of Hammersmith Bridge and Hampton Court Bridge.
Chairman of Hampton & Richmond Borough FC Jacques Le Bars said: “From the attendances perspective it’s going to affect home and away supporters, particularly away supporters as it is the key method of transport into the ground for those who are travelling by train.
“To go from three to one is absolutely critical with regards to who is going to be able to get into the ground on time for games, it may well deter travelling fans from coming to games and then you’ve obviously got the home fans as well, a lot of whom depend on the local train service to get to the Bev, so I imagine it will definitely have an impact on attendances.
“Aside from that, we’ve got the academy as well which has 45 boys in, the majority of whom will be using a train service at some point; if not to travel to and from the academy, but for other times when they’re travelling for away trips.
“So it’s definitely going to have a negative impact on the academy, it’s going to have a negative impact on attendances.
“We’re never going to see an increase in services but there should certainly be no reduction. It doesn’t make much sense to reduce it to one an hour. It doesn’t help residents, local businesses or the football club.”
In a statement, SWR Managing Director Claire Mann said: “The spread of the Omicron variant has had a significant impact on our railway, with fewer people using the train and staff shortages impacting on our ability to consistently deliver the current timetable.
“Having assessed demand and spoken to our industry colleagues, we believe this new, temporary timetable is the most effective means of ensuring our customers receive a reliable service, with short-notice cancellations minimised.
“Journey planners will be updated on a week-by-week basis, with updates taking place towards the end of each week.
“Customers should check their journey as close to their time of travel as possible.”
Featured Image Credit: Andi North via Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.