Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says the delayed Thameslink fast service from Maidstone East “remains on track” in a letter to Michael today.
The fresh assurances follow the pair’s meeting last week, in which Michael demanded the Transport Secretary’s commitment to delivering the new Thameslink fast service in full after fresh fears that the future express service would be delayed “indefinitely”.
Click here to read Grayling’s letter to Sir Michael
Reacting to the letter, Michael said: “Last week, the Transport Secretary tried to reassure me that the new service will be delivered. Now, its deliverability merely remains ‘on track’. Kent commuters, businesses and families need more certainty.”
Michael has demanded the Transport Secretary’s assurance that the new Thameslink fast service will be delivered in full, following fresh fears that the future express service would be delayed “indefinitely”.
The new link – to run from Maidstone East through Swanley and Otford to the City – was set to begin at the end of this year. But the start date was postponed until at least December 2019.
Worse still, the Sevenoaks MP discovered that the tendering documents for the new South East franchise operator asked for a cost analysis of the “indefinite” delay of the service.
He warned that this spelled bad news for families and businesses in his constituency and requested an immediate meeting with the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, which was granted.
Following the meeting, Michael said: “The Transport Secretary has committed to investigating why this paragraph was included in the Invitation to Tender. He has also undertaken to provide further reassurance that the fast service will commence in December 2019 and will not be further postponed.”
Michael has today (12) organised a letter to the new Rail Minister signalling concerns about the postponed new Thameslink fast service, which has been signed by four other Kent MPs also affected by the delays.
Following his representations to Govia Thameslink Railway about his alternative phased proposals earlier in the week, the Sevenoaks MP took the opportunity to put the issue on the new Rail Minister’s radar. It is the first time the local MP has took charge of a county-wide campaign since returning to the backbenches in November last year.
The letter reads: “Many families and businesses have made long-term plans on the basis of this service starting in 2018. Our constituents are therefore concerned that the services could be postponed further still, beyond 2019.
We are extremely disappointed at this situation, which has been taken without consultation, and would appreciate your time to discuss alternative phased proposals as soon as possible.
It is vital that the new plans avoid punishing businesses and commuters in our constituencies who have anticipated and planned for the introduction of this new service now for over four years.”
Click here to read the letter in full: Page 1 Page 2
Michael has welcomed the news that Sevenoaks Town Council has secured a £755,600 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant towards the refurbishment of the Bat & Ball Station Building.
The Bat & Ball Station Building is a Victorian property constructed in 1862. It was the first station in Sevenoaks and used by Queen Victoria when visiting Knole. It has been boarded up since 1991 and gradually deteriorated.
Having helped the Town Council secure the funding, Michael offered his congratulations.
He said: “Regeneration projects require huge community effort just to get off the ground. So I congratulate the Town Council for securing the funding it needs for the project to go ahead and I look forward to visiting the station in the New Year.”
The restored building will provide public toilets, two community rooms, and a café selling Kent produce and heritage information. It will also have the ability to sell train tickets. Currently there is only a ticket machine. All of these facilities should encourage more people to use the station.
The project is on track to be completed in September 2018.
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 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.’