A NEW winter rail timetable will cause further chaos, overcrowding and misery for the region's long-suffering commuters to the capital, it has been claimed.

A NEW winter rail timetable will cause further chaos, overcrowding and misery for the region's long-suffering commuters to the capital, it has been claimed.

David Bigg, chairman of the Witham and Braintree Rail Users' Group, called the new timetable, due to be implemented by rail operator One Great Easter from December 12, “an affront to common sense.”

He said passengers had been angered that some rush hour services to London were being downgraded and that there were not enough morning stops to Stratford, which provides a crucial link to the Docklands business district.

At a meeting with Braintree MP Alan Hurst later this month, he will urge the Labour politician to lobby his Government colleagues to press for an immediate review.

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Under the proposed timetable changes, the people of Witham will lose their dedicated 7.15am service to London Liverpool Street.

Instead, the 800 regular commuters will have to catch a later train at 7.18am, but because that starts at Colchester the chances of finding a seat are likely to fall, he said.

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Secondly, he added, although the 7.28am from Braintree will now have 12 cars, it will not have a stop at Stratford and will therefore force people to drive to Witham and Chelmsford to take trains from there instead.

Thirdly, he claimed Sunday services to and from the region were being cut by around 50% with only two trains per hour running from December instead of three.

In addition, two early morning Sunday services were being withdrawn altogether.

And finally, he complained that there would be no trains altogether on Boxing Day.

He said: “The decisions are ludicrous and present more problems for commuters who will have to endure extra chaos and misery.

“However, we believe there are simple solutions.

“We want the dedicated Witham service restored and the number of Stratford stops increased - it's ridiculous that there are more stops to Stratford coming out of London in the evening than there are going in during the morning.

“And on Sundays, although One might be able to get away with fewer trains during the winter, we want guarantees about services come summertime because that's when people start heading for the coast.”

However, a spokesman for One Great Eastern said: “We've done all our calculations on seating projections and we are more than hopeful we will be able to cope with the passenger loadings.

“We also recognise the growing importance of Stratford and that has been reflected in the overall increase in the number of stops there.

“On the other issues, we need to find time on Sundays to allow for Network Rail track improvements which will sustain the quality of our services.

“We don't think there is sufficient demand for a service on Boxing Day, but we will listen to all feedback and continue discussions with parties such as Mr Bigg.”

* Commuters into London faced delays of up to an hour yesterday as weekend engineering works in the Chelmsford area overran.

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