Thousands of angry commuters have backed a petition to stop South Eastern train lines being cut once the new franchise is handed out next year.

The Department of Transport announced fresh plans which involve a number of cuts to lines, as well as ambitious improvements.

Rail minister Paul Maynard said the next operator will be targeted with providing a 40,000-capacity increase through longer and more modern trains.

The next operator must introduce a new smart ticketing system, including a pay-as-you-go pilot, under the plans which will be implemented from 2022 and will facilitate the new Thameslink and Crossrail services.

However, the new franchisee must also implement cuts, including cutting line running to Victoria via Bexleyheath.

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition claiming these cuts would be a "disaster for commuters in areas such as Bexleyheath, Welling, Blackheath, Eltham, Kidbrooke and elsewhere who do not have access to the DLR or the Underground, so have to depend on the rail network.

"In particular, elderly and disabled passengers, who use the service to access Kings College Hospital at Denmark Hill, will face much more difficult journeys."

Clive Efford, MP for Eltham, encouraged commuters to sign the petition stopping the proposed cuts.

He said: "The government doesn't understand is that in south east London we don't have the underground, we rely heavily on rail services. Nine out of ten people told them not to cut the rail services in south east London."

Once the petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the Government is required to respond.

As well as the cuts on the Bexleyheath lines, the DoT is proposing the following changes:

- On the Hayes line, trains will no longer run to Cannon Street - calling instead at London Bridge, Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Victoria.

- North Kent services to Charing Cross via Lewisham will instead run to London Bridge and Cannon Street, to facilitate Thameslink.

- On the Sidcup line, services to Cannon Street will only run during peak times, with passengers needing Cannon Street having to change at London Bridge.

Meanwhile, a new half-hour service between Crayford and Victoria will run on the Sidcup line to meet increasing demand.

Passengers on the Bexleyheath line will have more trains going to London Bridge and Charing Cross, with space for an extra 10,000 passengers.

The DfT said: "South Eastern services carry 640,000 passenger journeys a day, and will soon need to integrate seamlessly with future Thameslink and Crossrail services to transform the way people travel across London and the south east.

"More than 10,000 responses were received for the department’s consultation on the future of South Eastern. The department has listened closely to passengers and South Eastern trains will still travel to the same London stations as at present including Victoria, Charing Cross and Cannon Street."

Other improvements required by 2022 include the next operator include WIFI on services and a 15 minute delay repay system.

The changes are subject to another consultation on detailed timetable proposals.

The petition can be found here.