Sir Michael has today made clear that the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, needs to get a grip on the ongoing issue of train timetables.
During media appearances with BBC South East, BBC News and BBC Radio Kent, the Sevenoaks MP outlined that the Transport Secretary should use his ministerial powers to make peak time Southeastern services to stop at Eynsford and Shoreham on their way to and from London.
The Sevenoaks MP pushed for Thameslink to offer alternative transport solutions for passengers when rail services do not run properly, as well as a proper compensation scheme to be in line with the disruption that commuters have suffered. Answering questions in the House of Commons this evening, the Transport Secretary confirmed this would be rolled out, as would an independent review into the failings of the timetable implementation.
Sir Michael has this week written to the Managing Director of Southeastern, urging him to make Southeastern trains travelling through Eynsford and Shoreham stop to pick up passengers who have experienced severe delays and cancellations as a result of the Thameslink timetable changes.
The Sevenoaks MP said: “Eynsford and Shoreham are smaller villages with fewer peak-time services into London than places like Swanley and Bromley. Southeastern services stopping at Eynsford and Shoreham would ease pressure on Thameslink and I have urged them to do that so my constituents are not further inconvenienced.”
Sir Michael has urged the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, to deploy more drivers who know the routes to and from London in order to ease the pressure on Thameslink’s services.
Currently, Thameslink do not have a sufficient number of trained drivers who know the routes from Kent to London, which has led to widespread delays or cancellations to peak-time services, leaving many commuters stranded. Thameslink have failed to prepare for the new timetable by not training enough drivers in time. Sir Michael will fight to ensure his constituents are not further inconvenienced.
The Sevenoaks MP said: “I see no reason why we should pay the price for Thameslink’s logistical issues and management failings. My constituents are rightly angry at how these timetables have been implemented and I will continue to press for other rail operators to deploy train drivers who know the London-Kent routes. This needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency.”
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Sir Michael last week visited Darent Valley Hospital, where he met staff and the Interim Chief Executive, Gerard Sammon.
He said: “I was pleased to visit Darent Valley Hospital and hear about how well they dealt with increasing demand in the winter months. Staff recruitment is always a challenge for the NHS but this hospital will benefit in time from Kent’s new medical school.”
Sir Michael this week became a Defibrillator Champion at an event held by The Oliver King Foundation, a charity set up following the sudden death of 12-year-old Oliver from a cardiac arrest. The Foundation campaigns to have defibrillators on site in every school in the UK.
He said: “Early access to a defibrillator is vital. I am proud to become a Defibrillator Champion for Sevenoaks and I will be working hard to ensure that there are defibrillators present in our public places, particularly in local schools to protect our children and teachers.”
On 13th April, Sir Michael attended the Valence School Hill Climb, a classic and vintage car show with a hill sprint, which raises money for extra resources and trips for the students.
Valence School, a Foundation Special School and part of the Kent Special Educational Needs Trust, is a school for children and young people who have physical disabilities and complex medical needs.
Sir Michael said: “I am a huge supporter of the work that Valence School does in enabling children with disabilities to lead more independent lives, and it was a pleasure to attend the Hill Climb to raise money for educational trips to supplement their learning.”
Last week Michael visited the Kemsing-based charity Remap, home to an army of ingenious volunteer inventors who work alongside occupational therapists to provide bespoke equipment and gadgets for disabled people to enable them to live with greater independence and quality of life. The inventions are not available to buy commercially and have helped over 3,500 people a year in the UK.
Some Remap inventions to date have included built-in ramps to assist with wheelchair access, custom-made paintbrushes to help those suffering from arthritis and pushchairs attached to a belt to enable parents who aren’t able to walk without assistance.
Remap’s Chief Executive, David Martin, said: “It was a pleasure to host Sir Michael at Remap, showing him our custom-made inventions and explaining some of the challenges we face. Remap has the capacity to help more people lead more independent lives, but in order to do that we need more funding to improve our advertising and spread the word.”
Michael replied that “Remap’s volunteers do brilliant work to help people lead more independent lives, and are only paid expenses and for the cost of the parts of their inventions. They are yet another example of the innovation here in Sevenoaks and I will be writing to the Minister for Disabled People, urging her to take a look at Remap’s work.”
Michael has pushed for better access to Heathrow for the residents of west Kent as part of new plans to extend Crossrail.
Speaking in an adjournment debate on the possible Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet, alongside Dartford MP Gary Johnson, Michael insisted that it would benefit the whole of Kent if residents could secure direct access to the UK’s largest airport.
He said: “Having direct access to Heathrow airport, which we currently lack, would relieve congestion in all parts of Kent considerably, not least on the M25. I would urge that the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission consider implementing these changes for the benefit of the whole of Kent.”