TRAIN services between Weymouth and Waterloo are set to double to two an hour from December. That's part of the mission statement from South West Trains as it takes on its new 10-year franchise from February 4.

As part of the franchise, the train operator shunted its elderly 442 class rolling stock into a siding last weekend and replaced it with three-year-old 444 class five-car units, which generally work in pairs.

However, Christchurch councillor John Lofts complains that people are being herded like cattle into the new trains. He regularly travels first class to London and is unhappy with the changes. One of his concerns is that first class passengers will have to travel in coaches without compartments.

"My real objection is that it reduces the standard of seating in first and second class and, overall, it would mean a decrease in the number of toilets."

Of the improved service to Weymouth, he said: "Let's see the numbers, how they come through and how it works. To get their money back the train company really has to work the assets and get the people in.

"The way they are going about it, it looks as if it's not people they want, but cattle."

South West Trains says each 444 unit has 18 extra standard seats and 15 fewer first class seats, and there are four toilets instead of six on the old 442s.

There are 21 tables, 11 fewer than provided on the 442 units, but the number of cycle racks has been increased from five to six.

The 444s also have passenger information systems, CCTV for passenger safety and power points in first class.

Last week Dorset County Council's environment overview and policy development committee discussed setting up a Dorset Rail Partnership.

"We should have had one a long time ago, and it's about time we had one that somebody takes notice of," said Cllr Lofts.