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 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.”
Michael has welcomed the Government’s announcement that £50 million of funding will be released from the Department for Transport to ensure free wi-fi is available on selected services from 2017, including those offered by Southeastern.
Michael Fallon said:“I know Sevenoaks commuters would welcome this facility. I have written to the Chief Executive of Southeastern, David Statham, to consider putting free wi-fi on our services. It would be a welcome recompense for all the disruption being suffered as a result of the redevelopment at London Bridge station.”
Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon met Southeastern Chief Executive David Statham on Friday (16th) to review the first days of timetable changes at London Bridge and to register his constituents’ dissatisfaction with the current services.
After the meeting Mr Fallon said: “Sevenoaks commuters have too few options. The current tube and bus concessions should be extended to other stations, including Victoria and Bank. I am pressing TfL to look again at the potential numbers at each station.
“There is still too much confusing information. Apps, websites and station indicators are all reporting slightly different service information. I want Southeastern to speed up a single version of the truth so that all passengers have the same information at the same time.
“David Statham will be travelling in from Sevenoaks early one morning this coming week, and I will be at London Bridge on Tuesday evening to see for myself if the peak hour crowd handling has improved.
“I have pressed Southeastern on compensation. The length of the London Bridge works and the uncertainty about the actual effect on journey times as the works move into the next phases, justify a discount for season ticket holders. I also believe that there is a strong case for reducing the compensation threshold to 20 minute delays, at least for the period of the rebuild, and I have asked Southeastern to cost this.
“Finally I have asked Southeastern to be ready to make minor changes as necessary, for example to train lengths, without waiting for the next formal timetable reviews.”
Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon is due to meet the new Chief Executive of Southeastern Rail, David Statham, and Network Rail managers in the next week to discuss the closure of London Bridge Station, rail fares and the general standard of service offered to commuters.
Michael said:“Sevenoaks commuters deserve a better standard of service. I will be calling on Network Rail and Southeastern to work more closely together to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum. I will also continue press for commuters to be allowed to use alternative stations to complete their journey at no additional cost for the duration of the disruption.
Rail fares increases have been at the maximum allowed each year. Commuters are already paying very large amounts – it’s time they had a break.”
Michael has written to the CEO of Southeastern Rail, Charles Horton, calling on the rail company to ensure their 2015 fare rises are within inflation. In 2014 the government reduced average fare rises to inflation for the first time in a decade, saving more than a quarter of a million annual season ticket holders an average of £25 each.
Michael said: “Many commuters regularly contact my office or visit me at my advice surgeries to discuss their concerns about rail fares. Whilst they appreciate the help from the Government to reduce fares rises to inflation they also point out the role which rail companies must also play. Rail operators do not have to apply the maximum increase but can offset this through greater efficiency. That is why today I have written to the CEO of Southeastern rail to ask him to reassure me and my constituents that any rail fare increases will be within inflation.”