Extra pressure could be put on South Western Railway services as the future of a mainline operator hangs in the balance under new proposals.

The Department for Transport (DFT) has revealed plans to restructure the CrossCountry franchise which operates a basic hourly from Bournemouth to destinations across the North of England. Part of the route goes over the Weymouth-Waterloo mainline.

The aim would be to cut the number of passengers using the service for short journeys, so there is more room for commuters making long-distance trips.

The Southampton to Bournemouth section of the Cross Country route could be cut under the plans.

It comes after figures from the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) revealed that passengers travelling from a Dorset rail station to elsewhere across the country have soared by more than 22 per cent – 5.86 million rail journeys were made in 2016/17, up from 4.84 million in 2006/07.

Currently, more than 608,000 people used CrossCountry trains last year (around 10 per cent) and the removal of these services would mean that passengers would have to travel on South Western Railway (SWR) services.

However, campaigners are fearing that the increase, especially after SWR put its December 2018 timetable improvements on hold could put pressure on the county’s mainline.

Mike Cash, General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said that more people using SWR meant that there would be an increased pressure on rail services across Dorset at expensive prices.

Mr Cash, added: “We may well be moving more passengers but for many, it’s at an eye-watering price to travel on rammed out and overcrowded services while the train bosses are laughing all the way to the bank.”

Ian Girling, chief executive of the Dorset Chamber of Commerce, added: “An effective rail network is essential especially as rail infrastructure is one of the major issues within Dorset that need improvement.”

The proposal is one of a number of ideas in a DFT public consultation about the future of the CrossCountry Passenger Rail Franchise, which includes long-distance services stretching from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland to Cambridge in the and Penzance.

A Department for Transport document published by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling suggested cutting overcrowding by “reducing the number of short distance passengers, where there are suitable alternatives”.

It asked passengers whether they would support “removing calls from towns closest to the conurbation centre either completely or just at peak times.”

Another proposal in the document is to continue calling at smaller stations - but to avoid including the stops in timetables.

The idea is that this would allow people to get off at smaller stations, but it would cut the number of people getting on because many passengers wouldn’t know the service existed.

The consultation will run until August 30.