THE RMT is demanding a rethink over planned timetable reductions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
South Western Railway has calculated that demand for commuting and business travel will stay lower, at least for the foreseeable future, but this will be offset by a small increase in leisure travel.
It has published a consultation which sets out a potential December 2022 timetable, featuring fewer trains on most routes.
The SWR's proposals have prompted the RMT to write to rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris, calling on him to intervene.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: 'The messaging from the Government and the rail industry is a total shambles. On the one hand we have the rail minister himself saying that rail passenger demand will fully recover post-COVID and on the other hand we have private train operators like South Western Railway claiming otherwise in order to make swingeing cuts to services and ultimately jobs.
'It is an absolute scandal that in the year we host vital climate talks at COP26 that the Government and rail industry is pursuing a policy of rail austerity as short sighted as the Beeching cuts of the 1960s which will just force more cars on to the roads.
'Today I have written to the rail ninister calling on him to intervene, do his job and act as a champion and guardian of our railways and not the axeman for Her Majesty’s Treasury. These cuts must be stopped.'
South Western Railway said: 'Even though passengers are now returning to the railways, all the forecasts suggest they will not return to pre-Covid levels for the foreseeable future. The December 2022 timetable is our opportunity to plan for a long-term timetable that will retain the reliability improvements we’ve made, meet the forecast demand and provide value for the taxpayer while balancing other local and national priorities.'