Commuters have hit out at train bosses after they were forced to cram onto packed carriages - with major concerns raised over a lack of social distancing.

Train provider c2c will be running a reduced timetable “until further notice.”

Bosses say the timetable “reflects the reduced demand” as people continue to be urged to work from home.

It has been met with fury from council bosses who say cutting train services and squeezing commuters onto shorter train will cause Covid-19 cases to rise.

Yesterday morning large numbers of city workers were forced to crush into packed trains – with very little room and no social distancing.

The operator says it has focused capacity around current travel patterns and cut services because of pressures on staffing caused by workers having to self isolate.

Changes include reductions to early morning services, late-afternoon trains, and school trains to Southend in the morning peak times.

Ron Woodley, Independent deputy leader of Southend Council, said: “I hope the bosses can take a short sharp intake of breath and anaylse what they have done here.

“Lots of people still use the services to get to work and to and from our grammar schools.

“This doesn’t help the rate of Covid infection and we can’t have a firm transporting people creating environments where symptoms could spread from one to another.”

Gavin Callaghan, Labour leader of Basildon Council labelled yesterday’s chaos as “avoidable.”

He warned cases could now continue to rise. Southend’s infection rate has doubled since lockdown began and Basildon now has the second-highest number of active cases in the county.

Mr Callaghan said: “It’s like we’ve not learnt any lessons from the first lockdown.

“It’s obvious to me that cramming people into trains like this is going to lead to a rise in the spread of the virus.

“We’ve got to ask the question that while passengers numbers may be in decline why c2c cannot get enough financial support from the Government to keep running safe services.

“This is yet another avoidable issue and it puts my residents in a really difficult position just before Christmas.”

According to a symptom study app which is used by more than 4 million people, there are 1,404 active virus cases in Basildon, while in Southend there are 1,274.

In Castle Point, there are 884.

Thurrock is recording the highest level in the county, with 2,817.