Sir Michael has today made clear that the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, needs to get a grip on the ongoing issue of train timetables.
During media appearances with BBC South East, BBC News and BBC Radio Kent, the Sevenoaks MP outlined that the Transport Secretary should use his ministerial powers to make peak time Southeastern services to stop at Eynsford and Shoreham on their way to and from London.
The Sevenoaks MP pushed for Thameslink to offer alternative transport solutions for passengers when rail services do not run properly, as well as a proper compensation scheme to be in line with the disruption that commuters have suffered. Answering questions in the House of Commons this evening, the Transport Secretary confirmed this would be rolled out, as would an independent review into the failings of the timetable implementation.
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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.’
It’s the summer of consultations. The Department for Transport, Network Rail, Thameslink and Southeastern have all launched their plans for 2018. I’ve responded to all four. I hope to respond to many more in the future, because getting our railways right is important; especially now, before our young people start new jobs in the City, before school starts up again, and before families return to work.
In March, I made the case for passengers in Sevenoaks and Swanley to the Government consultation on the new South Eastern franchise. It was a great opportunity to argue for more space on trains, improved compensation arrangements, an Oyster-style network, and an end to the unacceptably poor service many of us have endured for far too long. This was accompanied by a lengthy letter I handed personally to the Transport Secretary, demonstrating to him my determination to ensure that passengers are finally put first.
I also helped draft a joint letter to the Rail Minister, which was signed by twelve other Kent MPs, calling for a major rethink of our rail strategy in the South East. The more pressure we put on those in charge, the more likely we are to get results.
The Kent Route Study is not up to scratch. Network Rail must consider further solutions beyond those mentioned in the draft in order to meet the projected population proliferation. It’s crucial that our railways have the capacity to meet the increasing demand. I responded to the consultation in June and have requested a meeting with Network Rail to discuss the proposals in more detail.
Whilst Southeastern’s 2018 timetable proposals are underwhelming, Thameslink’s new 2018 timetable proposals are more promising. With plans to double the number of trains every hour from Swanley and introduce faster routes from Sevenoaks, it seems Thameslink are finally listening.
That’s why these consultations are important and that’s why I’ve taken considerable time to research and respond to them. Now we need to ensure that the very best of the plans are delivered.
Michael has written to Network Rail calling for more solutions to combat capacity strains on South Eastern railways.
In response to the South East Route: Kent Area Route Study draft consultation document, Michael said that Network Rail must consider further solutions ‘beyond those mentioned in the consultation draft’ to meet population growth forecasts.
‘It is crucial that the South Eastern rail network has the capacity to accommodate the increasing demand on its services’, writes Michael, who suggests this could be achieved by extending train carriages, increasing carriage size, and striking a better balance of seating and standing room for passengers on-board.
Further, improving connectivity on the South Eastern railway is important to Michael. ‘Rail services need to be reliable’, Michael says, ‘but during periods of unexpected disruption, crucially, passengers also need to be better informed.’
Michael welcomed the opportunity to discuss these matters in more detail with Network Rail during the next stage of the Kent Route Study draft.
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.”
On Thursday 16th July Michael Fallon MP visited London Bridge Station for an update on the current redevelopment and a tour of the site.
The station is being rebuilt as part of the Government-sponsored Thameslink Programme. The Programme is expected to be completed by late 2018 and will provide service users with more space, improved connections to more destinations and importantly, reliable services for commuters.
Michael said: “The scale of the work taking place at London Bridge is impressive and I am reassured of the benefits commuters will experience once the redevelopment has been completed.
Our railways are carrying more passengers than ever before and investment is vital to ensure services operate at their greatest potential for years to come; however I have reminded Network Rail of the need to keep disruption to existing service users at a minimum and I still want to see a discount for season ticket holders who face such a long period of disruption.”
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 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.”