Meeting Southeastern

Michael met senior managers at Southeastern to discuss constituents’ complaints about the new timetables, overcrowding and out of use toilets.

He told Southeastern that it had to do better. He asked whether Southeastern could offer additional peak time services to London alongside Thameslink to give commuters more choice. Southeastern have offered to keep the new timetable changes under review to work with Thameslink to make further adjustments later.

Sir Michael said: “I have emphasised my concerns with overcrowding and the need to keep improving punctuality. Passenger numbers have increased significantly since privatisation, but the quality of service needs to reflect the high fares commuter pay. I will continue to make this case to Ministers as the next Kent franchise is prepared and awarded.”

Michael Praises Public Art Project

Michael has praised the “creativity and individual innovation” of local artists at an unveiling of the Eynsford Village Society Public Art Initiative installation on Eynsford Station this morning (4).

Known as “Images”, the installation is comprised of works of art, each painted in a different style by six local artists, and celebrates the unique aesthetics of the village.

Train operator Southeastern sponsored the project, and David Statham, Managing Director of Southeastern, was there to provide frames to exhibit the art along platform 1 of Eynsford Station.  He said the purpose of the project is to generate interaction among people waiting for the train.

Michael said: “This is a great example of the creativity and individual innovation local people have to offer.  Railway stations provide a perfect platform for public art – something that can bring people and communities together on those otherwise restive commutes to work.”

Pressing Rail Execs for Answers

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.’

Good News – Longer Trains

Michael has welcomed the Transport Secretary’s announcement today that longer trains will now call at local stations on services to London.

A third of peak-time services will be lengthened, offering Southeastern customers more than 5,000 additional seats starting today.

In his announcement, the Transport Secretary said he is ‘confident passengers will notice the benefits of these longer trains immediately’, adding, ‘I am committed to getting passengers more comfortable, reliable and efficient journeys.’

The changes will affect stations across the constituency, including Dunton Green, Kemsing, Otford, Sevenoaks and Swanley. Maidstone East line trains will have more air-conditioned modern carriages with some peak-time trains doubling in length. On the Hayes, Baxleyheath, Woolwich, Sidcup, Bromley South and Grove Park lines, passengers will see a number of peak-time trains lengthened from eight to ten carriages while some six-car trains will lengthen to eight.se-68-extra-carriages-map-2017

Michael said: ‘Southeastern are finally reacting to capacity problems I’ve highlighted for years. But these improvements could go further. That’s why I plan to meet Southeastern and Network Rail in the coming months to ensure passengers get a better deal now rather than later.’

August Rail Closures: ‘Work Out Your Plan B’

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.’

COLUMN – Getting our Railways Right

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.

New Rail Timetable Underwhelming

Michael has said that he is ‘underwhelmed’ by the proposed Southeastern timetable effective May 2018.

The comment was included in Michael’s response to the Southeastern May 2018 Timetable Consultation, which sets out proposed changes to the timetable operated by Southeastern.  The consultation is one of a series of rail consultations that have been live over the summer period.

Among the proposed changes are plans to reduce the number of London destinations at peak times in order to ensure a simpler and more reliable service.  Whilst Michael supports the plan in principle, he warns that the redistribution of trains between Charing Cross, Blackfriars and Cannon Street must not come at the cost of lengthened journey times for passengers wishing to go to their original destination.

Michael said: ‘There are no major changes and the level of service will be broadly what it is today at a stage when a major rethink is required.  My constituents require faster, more regular and reliable train services.  Overall, I’m underwhelmed by Southeastern’s new proposals.’

Michael Joins Call for ‘Major Rethink’ of Rail Services

Michael has signed a joint letter addressed to the Rail Minister, calling for a ‘major rethink’ of how rail services in London and the South East are operated.

‘Passengers are dissatisfied’, the letter reads, ‘[w]ith insufficient room to stand at times and with some season tickets at more than £6,000, they feel they are not getting value for money. […] It comes as very little surprise that very few customers have confidence in the operator being able to deliver the improvements that are needed.’

Sevenoaks and Swanley feature prominently in the letter, which is signed by 12 Kent MPs.  In particular, the MPs support Michael’s campaigns for the rollout of smarter Oyster-style ticketing systems at all stations in the constituency and for Delay Repay 15 to be introduced before 2018.

The joint letter follows the personal recommendations Michael made to the Secretary of State for Transport back in March, in which he called for the new South Eastern franchise to ‘put passengers first’.

Michael said: ‘Signing a joint letter demonstrates the huge number of people affected by poor rail services.  Two Cabinet Ministers have signed this letter, including myself.  Getting a better deal for rail passengers is a top priority for me locally, and I will ensure it remains a top priority for this Government.’

Read the letter here.

Michael Calls for Southeastern Compensation Improvements

Inspecting the work in progress at London Bridge Station
Inspecting the work in progress at London Bridge Station.

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.”

Work Is Still Needed On Oyster

southeasternMichael has warned commuters that more work is needed to secure the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.

At a recent meeting with the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, Department for Transport officials warned that the extension of the network, which had been due to take place in 2018, was not guaranteed.

Following recent reports about uncertainty over the future of the South East Flexible Ticketing (SEFT) scheme), Michael secured assurances that SEFT will be rolled out to Sevenoaks by the end of the year.  SEFT will benefit season ticket holders, providing them with a single plastic card that will also work on TfL services.

Michael also received a guarantee that future decisions about bringing improvements like Oyster to Sevenoaks would not be affected by the installation of SEFT.

Michael said: “SEFT will be rightly welcomed by season ticket holders but it is no replacement for Oyster.  Despite fresh uncertainty over a 2018 introduction date, this is not the end of the line.  I promised to bring Oyster to Sevenoaks and that’s what I will do.”