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.’
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.’
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.’
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 has personally handed his recommendations for the new South Eastern rail franchise to the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP.
His letter, which was written in conjunction with his official response to the public consultation and can be accessed here, argues for a ‘railway system that works for everyone’.
In the nine-page letter, Michael argues: ‘For too long, services on the South Eastern rail network have been unacceptably poor […] Improved capacity, customer service, and payment systems are all welcome steps, but I believe the new arrangements need to go further. Our railways need to start putting passengers first’.
Michael calls for improved capacity, improved compensation arrangements, and improved connectivity on South Eastern trains, and outlines numerous arguments for the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.
Michael said: ‘I have responded to the public consultation to make the case for passengers in Sevenoaks and Swanley. Discussions on the new rail franchise provide a great opportunity to push for better services on our railways and a better deal for passengers: more space, improved compensation arrangements, and the extension of the Oyster network. I encourage constituents to visit the public consultation site and make sure their views are heard before the consultation closes on 23 May’.
The public consultation form can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/604904/south-eastern-rail-franchise-public-consultation.pdf
Michael has welcomed the Department of Transport’s recent announcement regarding the new Lower Thames Crossing.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced that the Government’s preferred route for a new Lower Thames Crossing is east of Gravesend and Tilbury. The development could create more than 6,000 jobs and boost the economy by over £8 billion.
The Transport Secretary also committed to investing £10 million to improve traffic flow at the existing Dartford crossing. Highways England estimates that the Lower Thames Crossing will cost up to £6.2 billion to develop.
Michael said: ‘Increasing capacity across the Thames will unlock huge economic potential. The proposals strike a balance between minimising the impacts on local communities and ensuring value for taxpayers’ money. There is now greater potential for investment opportunities, for new housing, and for businesses to grow, which will create even more employment opportunities in the region. This is a stamp of confidence for Kent, but I will continue to make representations on behalf of my constituents as the development progresses.’
Michael has welcomed a new consultation on proposals for a new crossing of the Thames.
The Lower Thames Crossing would relieve congestion in the area, reduce air pollution levels and produce significant economic benefits for the region. The scheme, which could be completed by 2027 at the latest, would lead to the creation of 5,000 jobs and boost the economy by £7 billion.
The consultation proposes a new tunnel to the east of Gravesend. Further details, including how to respond, are available here: https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/lower-thames-crossing-consultation. The consultation concludes on 24th March.
Michael said: “A new Thames crossing would be a vital addition to Kent’s transport infrastructure. The number of complaints I receive about the Dartford Crossing shows that, despite recent changes, a long-term solution is needed. I encourage anyone concerned to participate in this consultation.”