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.
Sir Michael has this week written to the Managing Director of Southeastern, urging him to make Southeastern trains travelling through Eynsford and Shoreham stop to pick up passengers who have experienced severe delays and cancellations as a result of the Thameslink timetable changes.
The Sevenoaks MP said: “Eynsford and Shoreham are smaller villages with fewer peak-time services into London than places like Swanley and Bromley. Southeastern services stopping at Eynsford and Shoreham would ease pressure on Thameslink and I have urged them to do that so my constituents are not further inconvenienced.”
Sir Michael has urged the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, to deploy more drivers who know the routes to and from London in order to ease the pressure on Thameslink’s services.
Currently, Thameslink do not have a sufficient number of trained drivers who know the routes from Kent to London, which has led to widespread delays or cancellations to peak-time services, leaving many commuters stranded. Thameslink have failed to prepare for the new timetable by not training enough drivers in time. Sir Michael will fight to ensure his constituents are not further inconvenienced.
The Sevenoaks MP said: “I see no reason why we should pay the price for Thameslink’s logistical issues and management failings. My constituents are rightly angry at how these timetables have been implemented and I will continue to press for other rail operators to deploy train drivers who know the London-Kent routes. This needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency.”
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 has vowed to continue fighting for rail travellers ahead of the new May 2018 timetable.
He met senior directors from Thameslink recently and complained that commuters to London and children heading to school in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells would be inconvenienced by the new timings.
In response, Thameslink made clear that it would provide the same number of services to London, though some timings are altered. The new 700 trains would double capacity to 1,000 seats. There was an extensive consultation last summer, with over 100 responses from this section of the line and the Sevenoaks Rail Passengers Association were involved. The timetables had been co-ordinated closely with Southeastern, who share an office with Thameslink.
Sir Michael said: “The consultation wasn’t thorough enough. Too many people have been inconvenienced. I have insisted that Thameslink be prepared to make changes to the timetables if there is sufficient evidence that particular services can be re-timed in ways that create more winners and losers. Timetables are revised again in December, and I am asking those who have complained to me to see if they can identify particular changes that could help.”