One of the country's biggest rail companies is to stop accepting cheques from the end of this week, years before the target date for phasing them out across the whole economy.
South West Trains, which runs services into London Waterloo from across the South East, has told its passengers it will no longer accept cheques from Sunday, June 26.
A spokesman said: "The banking sector is now phasing out cheque guarantee cards in the UK. This is affecting all businesses, not just the rail industry or South West Trains.
"As a result, like other train operating companies and indeed other retailers, we will no longer be able to accept cheque guarantee cards as a mode of payment from June 26."
The Payments Council has set a timetable for phasing out cheques of October 31, 2018, saying: "We will only go ahead with this target and close the system if there are alternatives available, people find them acceptable and people are using them.
"Cheque use has been in decline since 1990 and this decline continues every year. By setting a target date, we have the best chance of steering everyone through what we believe is an inevitable change, smoothly and with as little disruption as possible."
The announcement, made in 2009, has been criticised by consumer groups and charities, who said the decision would have an adverse effect on small businesses and elderly people.
During a meeting of the Treasury Select Committee last week, chairman Andrew Tyrie described the announcement as a "colossal error of judgment", while Conservative David Ruffley said it had "scared the pants off middle England".
Mr Ruffley accused the Payments Council of "rank incompetence" over the way it handled the issue.
The council said it will conduct a major review in 2016 to decide whether it should go ahead with closing the cheque processing system in 2018 or whether more time was needed, in which case a new target date will be set.Reuse content