Michael recently pressed railway executives for more improvements to local services sooner rather than later.
In a meeting held in Parliament, the Sevenoaks MP sought answers from the Managing Director of Southeastern, David Statham, and Route Managing Director (South East) at Network Rail, John Halsall, about a range of issues.
Having been underwhelmed by the May 2018 Southeastern Timetable, Sir Michael was pleased to hear that there are now 14 extra services and 37 extra quicker trains at peak times through his constituency. Further, every train will now be at maximum capacity.
Mr Statham and Mr Halsall reported on the progress of planned regeneration at Bat & Ball station and Swanley Station, the rollout of on-board Wi-Fi and new fleet upgrades including carriage air-conditioning. Sir Michael also raised specific concerns about smart ticketing and was reassured that the range of tickets available on The Key will increase.
The executives committed to remaining in close contact with the local MP and thanked him for his help in pressing the Government to help tackle these issues.
Michael said: ‘My constituents want to see improvements now, not later. That’s why getting Southeastern and Network Rail in a room together was important. I will keep in close contact with Southeastern and Network Rail to ensure commuters in my constituency get the best deal.’
Michael has warned constituents of line closures on rail networks to London over the bank holiday next week and has encouraged them to ‘work out [their] Plan B’.
From 26 August to 2 September, there will be no Southeastern services at London Bridge, Waterloo East and Charing Cross. This means there will be fewer trains into London and they may be diverted to different London stations.
The disruption will be caused by improvement work at London Bridge station and track upgrades, which is designed to improve station space, reduce future delays, improve connections, and facilitate more frequent journeys.
To assist passengers, the Thameslink Programme communications team has developed a campaign microsite, which details station by station the planned changes during the blockade, what this means for passenger journeys, detailed travel advice and customer information resources. The site is accessible via the following link: http://www.thameslinkprogramme.co.uk/2017-disruption.
In a post on his new Facebook page, Michael Fallon said: ‘These closures hit at a time when people are already back from holiday. So whether it’s changing the time you travel, finding another route, cycling to work, or working from home, you will need to work out your Plan B. I encourage everyone to visit the Thameslink Programme microsite and start thinking ahead.’
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.”
Last May, I was honoured to be elected for the fifth time as your Member of Parliament.
Since the election, I have continued to work hard on behalf of all of my constituents. I hold two advice surgeries each month, as I have done consistently since 1997, and I regularly raise issues and concerns on your behalf. My Westminster office also deals with hundreds of emails and enquiries every week. I work closely with our county, district, town and parish councillors, as well as other organisations such as Kent Police, the Citizens Advice Bureau and West Kent Housing.
I remain closely involved in campaigns across Sevenoaks and Swanley. From fighting to save Hextable Dance Studio to defending Sevenoaks Hospital, I am proud to support my constituents and fight for our communities.
Supporting our local schools
I am a strong supporter of schools across my constituency. Since the election I have visited schools in Westerham, Sundridge, Swanley, Sevenoaks, and elsewhere to speak to pupils and answer their questions about my work as MP.
Winning our campaign to secure grammar school provision last October was probably my best ever day as your MP. This decision was long in coming but the priority now is to get this annexe built and open for local parents and pupils. My next goal is to secure grammar provision for boys and I am working on this.
Getting a better deal for commuters
Our ageing railways cause a huge amount of frustration for commuters and passen
gers. Disruption may be the price of the vital work at London Bridge – but passengers need to know why they are delayed and what is being done about it. I was concerned to learn on a recent train cab ride that drivers are often unable to inform passengers about ongoing disruption and slow running while their train is in operation. Making sure drivers and passengers have rapid, clear and sufficent information is essential. I will continue to raise these issues with Southeastern to make rail travel easier for my constituents.
Bringing Oyster to Sevenoaks was another promise I made at the general election. Rail passengers have waited long enough and I will be meeting the Rail Minister again shortly to push for a definite date.
Fighting for our NHS services
I am committed to our local NHS. We need to see more services in Sevenoaks, not fewer. That’s why I have continued to defend Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure. The withdrawal of some clinics was concerning but I have secured assurances that these vital services will continue to be available for local people.
Protecting GP services is also important. There is a review of GP provision underway and I will ensure the views of local people are fully represented. The NHS is so much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it is local and loved.
Boosting our local economy
In Sevenoaks and Swanley, our local economy is strong. Compared with 2010, there are 600 fewer people out of work, including 200 fewer young unemployed, and we have 600 more businesses. I see evidence of this progress on each of my regular constituency days. Since the election, I have visited businesses, shops and local sites throughout the constituency and I have more visits already planned for the next few months.
But there is still more to do to support our local economy. Broadband is a key issue that businesses and the Chamber of Commerce continue to raise with me. I have recently begun a fresh campaign to demand further action from BT. We need to make sure our local businesses and those who work from home have the broadband they need to thrive, wherever they are based.
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.”
Network Rail have written to Michael Fallon MP following his visit to London Bridge Station to confirm that they will be acting on several changes which he has been calling for. Michael said:
“Following my deep concerns about capacity on platforms 1 and 2, Network Rail have assured me that they will be demolishing two of the buildings on the platforms to make extra room for passengers. Additionally, they have extended the canopy on platform 1 to encourage passengers to use the full length of the platform.
“Changes to passenger information have also been put in place with additional information screens installed.
“I welcome Network Rail acting after my visit and I will be continuing to monitor the situation at London Bridge very closely.”
Michael met managers from Network Rail today to discuss commuters concerns regarding the London Bridge Station closure and the proposed new Otford railway crossing.
Michael Fallon MP said: “Network Rail have apologised for the recent overcrowding at London Bridge station and the ensuing disruption. The train drivers should have been better informed and trained to cope with the new lay-out. I have insisted that they also improve the clarity and authority of passenger announcements, and move people more rapidly to less crowded areas.
“We face nearly two years of disrupted travel. Although the revised timetable has been trialled, I will be monitoring how it works in the coming weeks, and if there is further disruption I will be calling Network Rail back to answer questions.
I welcome Network Rail’s commitment to work with Otford Parish Council, local District Councillors and residents to secure the best option for a new and safer railway crossing. I have made it clear that residents’ views must be heard and taken into account before a final decision is made. I urge all local residents to attend the Public Information Event at Otford Village Hall this Wednesday 14th January (5-9pm).”
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.”