A RAILWAY campaign group has accused South Western Railway of displaying a “cavalier disregard” to rail users after it introduced a new timetable in response to the Omicron variant.

The new timetable came into effect on Monday, January 17, to ‘ensure reliability for customers and cater to key workers, school pupils and those who cannot work from home.’

There will be no through route to London from stations west of Bournemouth, meaning passengers will have to change trains. It affects Waterloo to Weymouth and Waterloo to Exeter.

Stewart Palmer, a Railfuture director, said: “There is no evidence from recent weeks that the levels of sickness by staff from Covid has forced these changes on SWR on these two routes.

“SWR have already reduced the attractiveness of these services by reducing frequencies, extending average journey times and the withdrawal of on-train refreshments.

“They seem to display a cavalier disregard for the needs of rail users. These changes will just drive passengers away to higher carbon means of transport. Rail users and their elected politicians, both local and national, need to make their voices heard to reverse this madness.”

A SWR spokesperson said: “We have had to take the decision to break some of our longer distance routes, so that staff absence on one of these routes does not have a more significant impact.

“Running shorter services between Exeter and Salisbury, and Weymouth and Bournemouth, will help provide greater certainty for customers travelling on those routes. They will then be able to change trains for onward journeys.”