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.”
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.”