More than 20,000 railway jobs could be axed under government reforms of the industry, unions have warned.
Officials said surveys have consistently revealed that lack of staffing is a major concern of passengers, but they voiced fears cuts will be made as a result of the recent "value for money" review by Sir Roy McNulty.
Savings suggested by the review could lead to thousands of job losses among guards, ticket office and station staff, maintenance workers and catering employees, said the unions.
The TUC, Aslef, Rail Maritime and Transport union, Transport Salaried Staffs Association and Unite launched a campaign aimed at opposing any cuts, handing out postcards to rail users across the country today.
TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The Government vision of a rail industry with deserted stations, closed ticket offices and trains with no staff is one that appeals to train operators seeking to cut costs and maximise profits - but train passengers are appalled.
"The public wants the help, reassurance and safety that rail staff provide, which is why so many passengers have responded to our campaign and have expressed their anger at the plans to cull the rail industry workforce."
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: "In Victorian times we had three classes of coaches on the railways - first, second and third. These Government proposals would make the whole railway third class. Ministers need to get out of their limos and find out what rail passengers want."
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "This Government, using the McNulty Rail Review as cover, is hell-bent on a policy of vandalising and de-staffing the railways regardless of the consequences for both staff and the travelling public."
Rail Performance Minister Norman Baker said: "Our plans are to reduce the cost of running the railway by £3.5 billion per annum by 2019. If we can do this, we can reduce the burden on taxpayers and put an end to the era of above-inflation increases, as we are determined to do.
"The Rail Command Paper places the passenger at the heart of everything the rail network is about. But any proposals for changes to staffing at stations and on trains are a matter for individual train operators."