Local MPs condemn South Western Railway service cuts

MP for Richmond Park & North Kingston Sarah Olney and MP for Twickenham Munira Wilson have spoken in parliament against South Western Railway (SWR) plans to reduce services into Central London.

SWR scaled back services during the pandemic due to lower demand, but has since announced that some of the reductions will be made permanent.

In her parliamentary speech on October 22, Olney claimed that this change is premature because the post-pandemic demand is not yet known.

“I do not think it is possible to make any forecasts of post-pandemic railway usage until such a time as we can be confident that we are completely out of the pandemic,” she said.

From December 2022, the Hounslow Loop will no longer run between Twickenham and Waterloo, and morning Teddington trains via Wimbledon and Kingston will reduce from a quarter- to half-hourly service.

Wilson argued in her speech that the logic behind the cuts, which will reach 50 per cent on some services, was “fundamentally flawed”. 

She said: “I have made it clear both to the minister and to SWR management that the proposed cuts are wholly unacceptable.”

Wilson continued: “Although these cuts are financially driven, they are financially illiterate. […] These cuts are bad for the local and wider London economy, they’re bad for the environment and they’re bad for passengers.”

Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, has also called the plans “simply unacceptable”. 

“With COP26 just around the corner, the Department for Transport and SWR should be encouraging customers safely back onto the railway network to help fight the climate emergency, as well as recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, rather than cutting rail services in order to save money,” he said.

A SWR spokesperson said: “With customer journeys forecast to return to 76% per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the services we are proposing will continue to provide sufficient capacity as the local economy in London, and the other areas we serve, bounces back.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “We will continue to work closely with SWR and Network Rail to deliver the most reliable services for passengers which meet forecast demand, whilst also considering the best value for the taxpayer.”

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