CHILDREN are being forced to travel to school on “jam-packed” trains, unable to socially distance after cuts to services, leading councillors say.

Pictures taken by Billericay councillors Andrew Schrader, Anthony Hedley and Basildon mayor David Dadds at Billericay Station show large crowds attempting to board trains after timetable changes on Greater Anglia.

The changes were prompted by a fall in demand because people are working from home, but crowded trains have sparked concerns over the spread of Covid-19.

It comes days after Southend parents criticised Greater Anglia for cuts which they say is putting young people at unnecessary risk, with one parent revealing his child now waits 45 minutes for a train to travel home.

The company has said it is running Sunday-style levels of service because fewer passengers are travelling during the pandemic.

Mr Schrader said: “Since the changes we have had residents telling us kids are struggling to get to school on time as trains are getting crowded again, so we went to look ourselves.

“It was very crowded, the trains were jam-packed, the trains also seem less carriages on top of being less frequent.

“So, it isn’t really satisfactory as it’s pretty much impossible for anyone to social distance, there isn’t any point riding a train wearing a face mask if your face is stuck in someone else’s face.”

Mr Hedley said that if he had been due to commute on that train this morning he would not have got on, but the students had no choice.

He said: “The 7.47am train was crowded when it arrived at Billericay station.

“If I need to travel on that train this morning, I’m not sure I’d have got on as you would have been nose to nose with other passengers.

“The problem is that if one train comes in really full, you don’t have the option of waiting a short time for the next one as it can be an hour-long wait.”

A spokesman for Greater Anglia said: “We are monitoring the situation daily and listening to customer feedback, to see if any adjustments to services are appropriate.

“Our aim is always to provide the best possible and most efficient service, recognising the significant taxpayer support the rail industry continues to receive.

“We will communicate any further changes to customers and look forward to the point at which it’s appropriate to add more services back into the timetable again.”