South Western Railway is blaming an overtime ban by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) for its limited service between Alton and London on non-strike days over the festive season.
The company is running only two morning trains from Alton to Waterloo, at 7.44am and 8.14am, and three evening trains from Waterloo to Alton, at 6.44pm, 7.14pm and 7.44pm.
South Western Railway’s performance and planning director Steve Tyler said: “We are very sorry that the RMT overtime ban will severely disrupt our customers’ travel plans throughout the Christmas period and into the new year.
“While not a strike, the overtime ban limits the number of trains we can get into service each day and we have had to make some difficult decisions to be able to provide a reliable and consistent service throughout the period.
“We are urging customers to check their entire journey before setting off and thank them for their patience and co-operation during this damaging industrial action by the RMT.”
But rail user Anthony Furnival, of Kings View in Alton, was not impressed. He said: “Alton is the only South Western Railway mainline to be dealt this fate, while all others see an hourly or half-hourly service.
“Put simply, Alton, Bentley, Farnham, Aldershot and Ash Vale will have near on no trains until the second week of January.”
Mr Furnival called on MPs Damian Hinds (East Hampshire), Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey), Leo Docherty (Aldershot) and Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) to unite in an effort to press for change – their constituencies contain Alton, Bentley, Farnham, Aldershot and Ash Vale stations.
In an email to them he said: “I’d encourage the four of you to collaborate and represent your residents who are being failed by South Western Railway, and especially those most reliant on public transport.
“South Western Railway are making travel impossible for a number of your constituents, potentially cancelling Christmas plans, leaving people unable to get to work, to hospitals or to care for elderly, disabled or sick relatives during the coldest spell of the year.”
Mr Furnival said a “reasonable response” to the problem was for South Western Railway to run an hourly shuttle service from Alton to Woking, which he claimed would “only require two extra trains”, and for the government to put South Western Railway into operator of last resort measures – under government control, similar to Southeastern, LNER and Northern – immediately.
South Western Railway is operating a “reduced or severely reduced” service, with trains only running between 7am and 10pm, until January 2.
Passengers are advised to travel only if it is “absolutely necessary” on Christmas Eve, when services will stop at 3pm, and on Tuesday, when there will be no trains before midday.
The RMT also plans to strike on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.