Warning About Christmas Station Closures

Inspecting the work in progress at London Bridge Station
Michael inspecting the work at London Bridge Station earlier this year.

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.”

Knole Students Ask the Big Questions

Michael with students at Knole
Michael with students and teachers at Knole Academy

On Friday, Michael was delighted to visit Knole Academy in the heart of Sevenoaks.

Michael answered questions about his work as a Member of Parliament and Defence Secretary from a range of students, including the Head Boy and Girl, the School Council and students involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  Amy Edwards, who Michael recently welcomed to Parliament in her capacity as a National Citizen Service national ambassador, was also present to greet him.

Michael answers questions from students
Michael answers questions from students

Michael said: “It was excellent to be back at Knole hearing about their latest achievements.  It was also good to see Amy again and to meet some of the school’s leading students.  The quality of education available in Sevenoaks continues to improve.  With Mrs Boyle at the helm, Knole has an important part to play in that progress.”

On this latest regular day in his constituency, Mr Fallon also visited Rockdale Housing Association and held his regular advice surgery.

Welcome Winter Plans from Southeastern

Inspecting the work in progress at London Bridge Station
Michael inspecting the work at London Bridge Station earlier this year.

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.”

Good Progress at Tubs Hill House

Michael with the team from Prime Place
Michael with the team from Prime Place

Michael enjoyed a visit to Tubs Hill House in the heart of Sevenoaks on Friday.  The site formerly consisted of offices and is now being converted into 100 high quality new apartments, which will reinvigorate the centre of Sevenoaks.

The Prime Place project was begun in the summer by contractors Buxton Group, who will be using local tradespeople for the project.  Willmott Dixon, who own the site, have a close relationship with Sevenoaks, having already constructed brand new buildings for Trinity Free School and Knole Academy.

Michael said: “It is essential that we build the homes that we need for future generations.  Redevelopments like the one being undertaken at Tubs Hill House are an intelligent way to create more homes and reinvigorate our town without creating further urban sprawl or intruding on the Green Belt.  It was a pleasure to see the latest progress on the site.”

On this latest regular day in his constituency, Mr Fallon also met Inspector Robert Slade at Swanley Police Station to discuss a number of local concerns and held his regular advice surgery at the offices of Sevenoaks District Council.

Excellent Grammar School News!

Michael speaking to BBC South East about the announcement.
Michael speaking to BBC South East about the announcement.

Michael applauds the Department for Education’s decision to approve Weald of Kent Grammar School’s application to build an annexe in the Sevenoaks constituency.

Following the announcement, Michael congratulated everyone who supported the campaign.  He also called on the school and Kent County Council to implement the decision as soon as possible in order to successfully achieve the intended opening date of September 2017.

Michael said: “I am very, very pleased with the decision to approve Weald of Kent Grammar School’s application to build an annexe in Sevenoaks.  I have strongly encouraged the Minister to reach this decision, which will finally end the absurd situation of Sevenoaks being the only area in Kent not to have a grammar school.  It will also help to ease the growing pressure on school places in West Kent.  Parents will have more choice, pupils will have shorter journeys and more of them will be able to access high quality schooling on their doorstep.

‘I would like to congratulate all the parents and campaigners who worked so hard for so long to achieve this great result.  It was strong local support that helped make the difference.  Following Thursday’s excellent decision, it is now time to move forward and get this new annexe built on the Wildernesse site as soon as possible.  After all the time taken to get the go ahead, parents and pupils have a right to expect no further delays.”

Sevenoaks Community First Responders Vehicle Launch

scfr launch 2

On Saturday, Michael was pleased to attend the launch of Sevenoaks Community First Responders’ new 4×4 medical emergency response vehicle.

Communtiy First Responders are volunteers who are trained by the ambulance service to respond to emergency calls through the 999 system.  Their new vehicle, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, has been named Ingrid after a member of the team who recently passed away.

scfr launch 3Michael met the responders and discussed their important work.  He was joined at the event by the mayor, the leader of Sevenoaks District Council and Tom Tugendhat, Member of Parliament for Tonbridge and Malling.

Michael said: “It is a great pleasure to be involved in the launch of Ingrid.  Sevenoaks Community First Responders is an excellent voluntary organisation that plays a vital role in saving lives in our local community: this new vehicle will enable them to offer a better service than ever.”

Success for Sevenoaks Constituency in New Business Figures

Michael welcomed new figures showing that 60 people have started their own business after being helped off benefits in his Sevenoaks constituency, with the support of the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance.

Since its introduction in April 2011, the allowance has helped 73,000 people on out of work benefits across the country to set up their own businesses.  Individuals are supported by a business mentor and receive 26 weeks of financial support.

Michael said: “It is excellent news that so many people in my constituency have not only left a life on benefits, but have also started to make such a positive contribution to our economic success.  This is the latest example of the Government supporting those who want to work.  I wish all those who have been helped by the New Enterprise Allowance every success.”

All Churches Together

Two All Churches Together election hustings with all the Parliamentary Candidates have now been held – one in Hextable for the Swanley group of churches in mid-April and one last night in the United Reformed Church, St John’s Hill for the Sevenoaks Group.

Nearly 200 people attended both meetings and the candidates answered a range of questions covering Christian values, the NHS, local education, housing, foreign aid, Trident and defence, immigration, and the deficit and national debt.

 

Sevenoaks Business Show

I was pleased to support and officially open the Sevenoaks Business Show today.

There are now 760,000 more business in the UK than there were five years ago.  Since 2010, more than 2.2 million new jobs have been created.   In the Sevenoaks area the number of unemployed persons has halved – from 1,074 in 2010 to 484 in March 2015.  These are both remarkable achievements.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and the driving force of the economic recovery.  From cutting taxes to helping hire staff – the Government is backing small businesses and will always make sure that they get the support they need to start up and thrive.

We have some amazing businesses here in the Sevenoaks area.  As MP and a Minister I have always been unashamedly pro-enterprise.  That means promoting competition, opening up markets, and championing new firms.  It’s something I’ve done whether in the Business Department scrapping red tape, or as an Energy Minister backing new suppliers.  It is also what I am doing in the Ministry of Defence by opening up more government spending to SMEs.

British Heart Foundation – Sevenoaks

Staff and voluteers at British Heart Foundation - Sevenoaks
Staff and volunteers at British Heart Foundation – Sevenoaks

Michael met staff and volunteers at the High Street shop today.  Here are a few of British Heart Foundation’s  interesting statistics for their base in Sevenoaks:

  • The shop is run by 3 paid staff and over 30 volunteers, one of whom originally started as a volunteer
  • Between 700 – 800 donation bags are brought in to the shop per week
  • Up to 2,000 van packs are posted out each week
  • Between 5 -10 collections are made each week
  • 3 – 10 Gift Aid donors are signed up each week providing £140 – £150 of extra funds for the shop
  • Average sales per week amount to £4,500
  • The shop made £97,000 profit last year and they have already raised £83,000 this year.

Around the south-east BHF – Sevenoaks has helped to fund

  • 108 healthcare professionals
  • 1,783 defibrillators
  • 24 diagnostic equipment awards
  • 1 Hearty Lives projects
  • 128 Heartstart schemes
  • 36 heart support groups