A TRAIN company has defended the reduced timetable it put in place during last month's freezing weather conditions.

Southeastern ran a drastically reduced number of trains from January 6 to January 8 because of the snow and ice in south-east England.

Five days later chairman of the London Assembly's transport committee, Caroline Pidgeon, wrote to the company's managing director asking why so many trains were cancelled when other London train firms, such as Southern, continued to operate as normal.

In his 11 page response, Charles Horton has said the weather forecasts supplied by rail operator Network Rail correctly suggested there would be snowfall followed by freezing temperatures.

Mr Horton said Southeastern decided there was the risk of passengers getting "stranded on trains" and that their primary responsibility was the "safety of passengers".

He told the assembly member many of the railways' electrical conductors became frozen meaning trains could not start and that a reduced timetable ensured trains ran on time rather than with severe delays caused by trains stuck on tracks.

He added: "Network Rail assessed there was a very significant risk of trains becoming stranded because they were unable to collect electricity from the track.

"Southeastern published and delivered a more reliable timetable than some other operators were able to achieve."

But Brian Cooke who is chairman of the Orpington and District Passenger Transport Users Association said the letter does not excuse the early stop to services.

He said: "We understand the need for an emergency timetable, but in some cases the last train was at 8pm in the evening. It has never happened before and let's hope it never happens again."

Southeastern said that in most cases trains arrived at their destinations between 9pm and 10pm.

Southeastern says the reduced service was necessary to:

- Reduce the likelihood of passengers being trapped on failed trains for long periods

- Provide a timetable which passengers were aware of in advance and could rely on

- Reflect the reduced number of passengers

- Limit the number of railway points and junctions used

- Reduce the damage to trains from conductor rail icing