Commuters using Southern Rail woke up to a Monday morning full of chaos on the rail lines – all with a veneer of officialdom.

It was the first day of the new reduced timetable with 341 axed services to save the company the embarrassment of its “unofficial” decimated scheduling.

The company said the move would make the services more “resilient” in the face of industrial action by the RMT union and high levels of staff sickness.

A spokesman said: “Ninety-five percent of trains are running on time or within five minutes against a revised timetable and there has been no reporting of overcrowding issues.”

Rail passengers plan to stage a protest later on Monday at Victoria over the reduced timetable and shabby service and have threatened a fare strike.

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Organiser Alex Prosser-Snelling said: “We aren’t people who protest normally, but everyone’s fed up of the service.

“Southern mismanagement is needlessly wrecking passengers’ evenings, interfering with childcare, and stressing out the workforce. Southern needs to get a grip - and if they can’t or won’t, the Government shouldn’t let them run a railway.”

A protest advert that appeared in The Times, funded by disgruntled passengers

Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon and daily user of Southern train services, said: “The level of service provided by Govia Thameslink Railway in recent months has been appalling. There is simply no other way to describe the service that I and so many other people have faced in recent weeks.

“Their service has led to immense inconvenience for thousands of people and families across south London.”

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“By drastically reducing their timetable Southern trains are simply taking the easy option for themselves at the cost of everyone else.

“I hope that before long Southern train services are taken over by London Overground. In the short term the company must provide details as to when it will end its much reduced service and when it will have enough drivers to drive their trains. The company should also sort out its poor industrial relations.”