Fast-Service Delay ‘Not Good Enough’

Michael has pressed the government for answers following news that the new Thameslink fast service from Maidstone East, Otford and Swanley to London due to start from December 2018 has now been postponed until at least December 2019.

The local MP submitted a series of Parliamentary Questions to the Rail Minister about the matter.  The Rail Minister answered the questions last week, writing:

“Learning lessons from previous major changes and to enable the industry to reduce the risk of disruption to passengers from too much change on the network at any one time, the Secretary of State for Transport asked Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) to propose options to reduce the risk of disruption to passengers from the introduction of the Thameslink timetable and operational changes. GTR’s proposal increases the number of services through central London more gradually than had been planned, beginning in May 2018 and ending in December 2019.

The changes have been selected as the best option to benefit the most passengers across the wider south east network. The new Thameslink services from Maidstone East will now be delivered in December 2019.”

Michael has also written to the Transport Secretary for an explanation, demanding he provide reasons for not having consulted on proposals before having taken the decision.

Before writing to the Transport Secretary, Michael was informed by GTR that the decision had been taken by the Department for Transport.

Michael said: “This is not good enough.  We need confirmation that operators will still achieve full capacity on this route, as planned, in 2018.  I await the Transport Secretary’s explanation for not having consulted with stakeholders before taking this decision.”

New Thameslink Rail Times ‘Positive’

Michael has responded positively to the second phase of the Thameslink timetable consultation.

The proposed timetable, effective December 2018, will double the number of Thameslink trains from two per hour to four per hour in the constituency. This will affect mainline routes from Swanley and Otford and metro routes from Swanley, Eynsford, Shoreham, Otford, Bat & Ball and Sevenoaks to London.

During off-peak periods, however, existing Thameslink services will operate between Sevenoaks and London Blackfriars only. Whilst reducing the number of London destinations may make trains more reliable, Michael wrote, the only way to ensure that passengers are not then inconvenienced is to install Oyster-style ticketing for whole journeys at all stations in Sevenoaks.

Journeys from Swanley to London Bridge, London Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras International and beyond to Cambridge will be faster. A direct train service between Sevenoaks and Welwyn Garden City will also form part of the expansion of the Thameslink network.

Michael said: ‘Plans to double the number of trains per hour show that the train operators are listening. That’s why engaging in consultations is important. Now we need to make sure that these plans are delivered.’

The consultation closes on 27 July. To respond, visit transformingrail.com.

Supporting Otford Small Businesses

Mille Fleurs Otford
Mille Fleurs Otford

Michael joined members of the West Kent branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Otford today to provide support and advice to their members.  Among the shops he visited in the High Street were Mille Fleurs (bespoke hats) and the Bill Skinner Studio (bespoke jewellery).

Jane Cave has been a milliner since 1982 and set up the shop Mille Fleurs in 1997.  The shop also hosts a workshop, where bespoke hats are made on-site using traditional millinery techniques.

The Bill Skinner Studio creates collections using traditional techniques as well as state-of-the-art technology such as 3D printing.  The company employs 14 people at three different locations and exports internationally following extensive restructuring three years ago.

Bill Skinner Studio Otford
Bill Skinner Studio Otford

Michael said: “The small business rate-relief has helped many businesses.  However, I am also keen to support the cutting of red tape in any way possible.  Small businesses in small villages don’t get the same footfall as in the larger towns.  There is strong competition from the internet  so anything that we can all do to help to promote local small businesses must be worthwhile.”