Thameslink will start scaling back train services from Bedford and Luton on Monday as the coronavirus pandemic affects staff and passengers.
The operator. which runs services to London, Gatwick Airport and the south coast, says the move to an emergency timetable will help keep trains moving for essential workers.
Thameslink's chief operating officer, Steve White, said: “This is an unprecedented situation for everyone and we – together with the rest of the rail industry – are doing our utmost to keep an essential service running for key workers who are doing such vital jobs.
“The message from the Government is clear – travel only if you have to. The changes we are making should allow us to sustain a timetable for those who absolutely have to travel such as doctors, nurses and the emergency services. We want to thank them and our own staff, who are working so hard to keep trains running.”
Thameslink will start winding back services on Monday (March 23) followed by further cutbacks seven days later.
But they say the emergency timetables, which are adapted from existing services, will keep services to suit key workers travelling in the peak as well as working early and late shifts.
But the operator warns the impact of the Covid-19 bug on its own workforce make further short-notice changes to services likely and it advised passengers check for the latest updates on the National Rail Enquiries website before travelling.
East Midlands Railway services are also likely to be reduced as National Rail implements a nationwide scaledown of services in response to the Government advice to avoid all non-essential travel.