UNIONS and MPs staged protests over safety fears after a major rail franchise was awarded.

The Thameslink franchise was awarded to Govia and will run for seven years from September between Brighton and London.

But union chiefs said jobs would be cut and passengers would be less safe.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Not only are there likely to be huge job cuts across the area controlled by the growing Govia empire, the prospect of driver-only trains and the loss of staff at stations across a third of the network will make travelling, especially late at night, a less safe experience for passengers.”

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion who joined a protest at London Victoria on Monday, said: “The new franchise threatens the livelihoods of skilled local railway workers and our services.

“I call on the Government to review this new super-franchise as a matter of urgency to ensure the protection of jobs, services and passenger safety.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “This is irresponsible scaremongering by the rail unions and their actions show no regard for passengers.”