Rail passengers and campaigners have been left disillusioned as new train operators propose to halve the number of direct train services between Weymouth and London Waterloo.

Incoming operators of the South Western railway franchise, First MTR South Western Limited, confirmed the company only intends to run one train to the capital each hour. 

Currently there are two trains to the capital each hour, an improvement introduced 10 years ago.

The South Western franchise has been operated by South West Trains (Stagecoach) for the past 20 years but will be taken over by First Group in partnership with Hong Kong-based company MTR on August 20.

The plans, which will be subject to public consultation from September, propose to maintain one direct fast service to London an hour which will be up to 14 minutes faster.

The second service will be replaced with a stopping service from Weymouth to Portsmouth meaning those travelling to London will have to change trains at Southampton Central. 

The announcement follows previous promises from First Group that it would provide "more seats, services and quicker journey times."

Dorset Echo:

Cllr Colin Huckle, spokesman for transport and infrastructure at Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, said: “My understanding is that we were promised quicker and better trains, so this really doesn’t seem to be what we were given to understand when they bid for the contract.

“I go to London quite a lot and there aren’t enough coaches to cope with the amount of passengers on the London train at the moment. By the time you get to Bournemouth it’s full. I think First MTR need to talk to the council and the MP about the proposals.”

Currently there are two hourly trains between Weymouth and London Waterloo with the fastest service taking just under 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

Dorset-based travel writer and photographer Geoff Moore of traveltrunk.net said: “It’s definitely a retrograde step in terms of the commercial and business development of Weymouth and south west Dorset.

“It puts Dorset at a grossly unfair disadvantage, and the reality is we are getting a third-class service from the operators.”

Residents are worried that the proposals would result in small stations such as Upwey, Moreton and Wool losing their direct line to the city. 

Bryony Chetwode, the secretary of TravelWatch SouthWest, an advocacy group for public transport passengers, said the plans are a response to residents’ demands. 

She said: “Overwhelmingly people were complaining that London journey times were too long so this will provide a solution to that.

“As a principle, people don't like to change trains, but it’s important to think they are not losing a service they are gaining a better connection. 

“People get upset about not being on the map and not having a direct London train, but ultimately it’s about public transport as a whole, if you can access better, more frequent transport and get there in a shorter time.”

First MTR South Western Limited said all proposals are “fluid” at present.

A spokesman for First Group said: “We are working on the December 2018 timetable which are all subject to public consultation which begins in September 2017. 

“They include plans to improve journey times and service frequency by up to 14 minutes between Weymouth and London. Stakeholders told us that they wanted faster journey times which is what these proposals aim to deliver for December 2018. 

“Weymouth retains two services – one will be a fast service, the other will be a stopping service. Our stakeholder research showed that the second train is currently mostly used for local journeys and for those wanting to get to London will be able to connect to fast trains from Southampton. 

“The stopping service will be a 'cross south coast' service linking Weymouth to Portsmouth which we believe will encourage regional economic growth and ease the burden on the road network which is already under pressure.”