In a sometimes unsettled year nationally, Sevenoaks, Swanley, Westerham and our villages have continued to go from strength to strength. Unemployment remains at record low levels. Our new grammar annexe is being constructed and will open next year. Our local economy is vibrant and prosperous.
Building on this progress will require more work in the New Year. Bringing fast broadband to all parts of the constituency is still a top priority. We must also continue to work hard to protect our much-loved Green Belt from inappropriate development. Most importantly, though, the spring will see consultation on the new rail franchise and I will use this opportunity to push for the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.
At the end of a successful year for Sevenoaks and Swanley, I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year. I am always proud to represent this constituency and I look forward to being as active as ever throughout the area in 2017.
In his latest column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need for improvements to rail services:
As the nights draw in, rail disruption on long, cold journeys home seems ever more frustrating. Problems like the ones we experienced in Sevenoaks last week seem to happen all too often.
I regularly receive complaints about Southeastern’s performance and I recently joined other Kent MPs to press the Rail Minister for improvements. I will be paying particularly close attention during the winter months.
Next year will see the start of a wider process to decide on the details of the new regional rail franchise from 2018. For anyone who wants to see better services in Sevenoaks, this is an important opportunity to have your say. There will be a consultation in the spring on what we want to see and I encourage everyone to participate.
My top priority will be the extension of the Oyster network to stations like Sevenoaks. I promised to fight for this vital improvement at the election last year and I will be lobbying hard. There are wider issues too, though, such as making sure there are enough trains and seats to cope with growing passenger numbers.
Securing all of these changes will only be possible if we push for them together. I know some people think that things will never change. I know they are tired of the old excuses for poor service and disruption. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for new solutions. We have to seize this opportunity to secure the meaningful improvements we need.
In the meantime, I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year. In a politically eventful year, Sevenoaks and Swanley have continued to thrive and I am looking forward to continuing to serve as your MP in 2017.
Michael has secured fresh assurances about the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.
In two recent letters, the Rail Minister and the Deputy Mayor of London have both confirmed their commitment to the principle of expansion when the new rail franchise begins in 2018.
In a letter, Rail Minister Paul Maynard wrote ‘We are still considering a further roll out of Oyster to stations such as Sevenoaks.’ The letter also acknowledged that incorporating Sevenoaks into the Oyster zone system could ‘provide both savings and increased convenience for your constituents’.
In a separate letter, Deputy Mayor of London Val Shawcross assured Michael that under Transport for London’s (TfL) proposals for taking over London metro rail services, his constituents would be able ‘to use Oyster and contactless bank payment cards for journeys from Sevenoaks to anywhere in the London zonal network’.
Michael said: “This is important progress. Whether under TfL’s proposals or the existing system, Sevenoaks’ passengers deserve the benefits that Oyster and contactless can bring. I will continue to push for further commitments to ensure that this vital improvement is delivered as soon as possible.”
Michael has called on Southeastern to offer a new, more generous compensation system for passengers who have experienced delays.
The Department for Transport recently announced that rail passengers will soon be able to claim 25 percent of the cost of the single fare if their train is more than 15 minutes late. This is a reduction from the current limit of 30 minutes.
Under current plans, Southeastern passengers are currently unlikely to benefit until 2018. Michael has written to David Statham, Managing Director of Southeastern, to ask him to implement the improved ‘Delay Repay 15’ compensation scheme sooner.
Michael said: “With the disruption caused by work at London Bridge, my constituents should be able to benefit from this improved system right now. I have asked Southeastern to work with the Department for Transport to introduce this enhanced offer as soon as possible.”
Michael has warned commuters that more work is needed to secure the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.
At a recent meeting with the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, Department for Transport officials warned that the extension of the network, which had been due to take place in 2018, was not guaranteed.
Following recent reports about uncertainty over the future of the South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) scheme), Michael secured assurances that SEFT will be rolled out to Sevenoaks by the end of the year. SEFT will benefit season ticket holders, providing them with a single plastic card that will also work on TfL services.
Michael also received a guarantee that future decisions about bringing improvements like Oyster to Sevenoaks would not be affected by the installation of SEFT.
Michael said: “SEFT will be rightly welcomed by season ticket holders but it is no replacement for Oyster. Despite fresh uncertainty over a 2018 introduction date, this is not the end of the line. I promised to bring Oyster to Sevenoaks and that’s what I will do.”
Michael was in Sevenoaks and Swanley on Friday 11th March for his latest busy constituency day.
He travelled in the cab of a Southeastern train to learn more about the impact of the ongoing work at London Bridge on the services used by his constituents every day.
Following this, he spoke to pupils at Combe Bank School in Sundridge, answering questions on issues such as defence and the EU referendum.
In Swanley, he accompanied local councillor Victor Southern to the Swanley Therapy Centre, which relies on charitable donations to offer oxygen treatment to local patients. He also visited Lockdecoders, a vibrant local business run by Victor’s son Peter.
Returning to Sevenoaks, he received a tour of the latest progress at Knole House, where significant restoration work is transforming the medieval site.
Michael ended the day with his monthly advice surgery in Sevenoaks.
Michael has announced that he has made further progress towards his manifesto commitment to bring Oyster to Sevenoaks.
Following a new commitment by Transport for London (TfL) to make a contribution towards the extension of the network, Mr Fallon will be seeking a joint meeting with TfL and the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, to push for action.
Michael said: “I welcome TfL’s strong support for the extension of Oyster to Sevenoaks. I am clear that Oyster is convenient and proven to work well. I made a commitment to the people of Sevenoaks to bring Oyster to our town and I intend to deliver it. I look forward to meeting with TfL and Claire Perry to make further progress.”
Evidence of strong local support is always important, so please click ‘Leave a comment’ to the left of this post if you believe Oyster should be extended to Sevenoaks.
Michael has warned commuters in the Sevenoaks constituency to be prepared for significant rail disruption over the Christmas period.
In addition to the regular reduced service level between Christmas and New Year, no trains will be stopping at Charing Cross, Waterloo East, Cannon Street or London Bridge from 8pm on Christmas Eve until 4am on Monday 4th January. Service frequency will begin to reduce from the afternoon of 24th December. All trains will be redirected to Victoria, Blackfriars or New Cross and tickets will be accepted on Transport for London services.
Kent’s Members of Parliament met Southeastern’s Managing Director, David Statham, and his team earlier this week to hear more about the plans, which are part of the Thameslink improvement programme at London Bridge.
Michael said: “Whilst I understand this major disruption to services is necessary for the ongoing redevelopment of London Bridge station, I will be monitoring the work to ensure that the reopening of the stations is not delayed. Passengers must not experience any more disruption than is absolutely necessary.”
Michael has welcomed Southeastern’s commitment to introduce a number of measures to minimise disruption for commuters from the Sevenoaks constituency this autumn and winter.
Michael wrote to Southeastern’s Managing Director, David Statham, earlier this month to seek assurances about what plans Southeastern has to mitigate the impact of poor weather conditions on train performance.
In his response, Mr Statham stated that:
An additional three water jetting trains have been allocated to Kent this year by Network Rail to remove leaf debris;
Additional trackside equipment has been placed in areas that have caused serious disruption to journeys in the past to reduce the risk of disruptive incidents;
Southeastern will run empty trains through the night to keep tracks clear of ice;
Network Rail has installed heaters and NASA grade insulation to points at key locations and protective covers to points and point motors to keep snow out and prevent damage by ice falling from trains;
Southeastern has invested in hand-held mechanical snow ploughs to keep platforms, car parks and forecourts free of ice and snow;
Southeastern has reached agreement with Kent County Council to use its resources to ensure that station approach roads are kept clear.
On 4th October, Southeastern also introduced some changes to their timetable to take account of changing weather conditions and give passengers more certainty about arrival times.
Michael said: “I welcome the assurances that Southeastern have given me. They believe they are better equipped for poor weather conditions than before. But I will be continuing to monitor their performance to ensure that any problems that develop during the autumn and winter are dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible so that my constituents suffer the minimum of disruption.”