Category Archives: commuters

New Rochester Station may cut journey time to London

WP_20150126_002Mark Reckless has had confirmation from the Rail Minister, in answer to a parliamentary question, that the journey time to London may decrease when our new train station for Rochester opens in December.

Mark will now meet Southeastern trains to press for a noticeable reduction in journey time to London for as many trains as possible once Rochester’s new station opens and the new timetable begins in December.

There should be scope for some reductions in journey times from Rochester to London because, as well as Rochester station moving half a kilometre up the tracks towards London, the signalling system is also being modernised.

Mark will also discuss with Southeastern the difficulties Kent commuters are having through London Bridge, and the recent shortening of some trains, including the 17:25 St Pancras to Faversham service which has nonsensically been reduced to six carriages (reportedly so the carriages can instead be shunted around Deal and Walmer largely empty).

Mark’s Parliamentary exchange with the minister was as follows:

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of the reduction in journey time from Rochester to London that will result from the new station in Rochester and the improvements to signalling on that route being undertaken by Network Rail.

Answer:
Claire Perry:

This Government is committed to an unprecedented programme of planned rail improvements, including the entire £26m rebuild of Rochester station this year. The signalling work on that route will improve network capacity in the Rochester area and promote more robust performance and infrastructure reliability for rail services. The new station, which will provide 12-carriage platforms at Rochester for the first time, will improve access and integration with Rochester city centre, with step-free access to all platforms and new facilities for passengers, including additional car parking spaces. Network Rail has advised that there may be a slight decrease in journey time although the final December 2015 timetable has not been settled.

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Mark Reckless welcomes Secure Station Scheme success for local rail stations

280414RL_04Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, was delighted to meet and congratulate staff and station managers at Strood railway station after both Rochester and Strood stations were recognised by the Department for Transport under the ‘Secure Stations Scheme’.

The scheme, which is run by the Department for Transport and the British Transport Police, recognises stations which effectively work to reduce crime, theft and antisocial behaviour, as well as generally making passengers feel safer and more secure.

Speaking of the awards, Mark Reckless said:

“This is very good news for rail passengers in my constituency. I am very pleased that both Strood and Rochester stations have fulfilled the criteria to be included in the Department for Transport’s ‘Secure Stations Scheme’. The Scheme’s guidelines are very stringent and it is clear that the management and staff at both railway stations have worked hard and deserve this recognition.

This accreditation shows that not only have managers and staff met the tough targets which are set by the Department for Transport and British Transport Police, but that passengers using these stations have seen a real and welcome difference in the service which they receive.

As a regular commuter myself it is reassuring to me and my constituents to know that this level of security is being maintained at both Rochester and Strood railways stations. My congratulations and thanks to all of the staff and managers who have worked hard to achieve this recognition.”

 

End to Above-Inflation Fare Rises

I spent between 6.30 and 8.30 this morning meeting commuters at Rochester station, with supporters out in force covering Chatham, Strood and Cuxton stations at the same time.

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Some commuters were  back to work for the first time today after a near two week festive break, while others had returned last Thursday. I am grateful to all who have taken part in my Commuter Survey, and particularly to those who could raise a smile or friendly banter before dawn.

Most are benefitting from some of the smallest increases in rail fares that we have seen in January for many years. Although any increase is hard to bear, we have at last succeeded in our campaign to end above-inflation fare increases. One commuter wrote to me today:

“Mark Reckless pleased to see my #southeastern rail season ticket had only gone up by £10 this year. Makes a change. Good work.”

The last Labour government singled out Southeastern commuters for whopping fare increases of RPI inflation+3% every year, way above the RPI+1% they applied elsewhere, although commuters had their say at the 2010 general election when the North Kent constituencies saw massive 10% electoral swings from Labour to Conservative.

We cut back the RPI+3% increases to the same RPI+1% nearly everyone else was paying but this year we have gone further and ended above inflation average increases. Southeastern trains have only put up fares by an average of 2.8% this year compared to the 3.1% RPI inflation. This should fall further next year.

What about Customer Service?

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Service levels on Southeastern have been pretty poor over the past few weeks, although we should note that not all has been their fault.

There has been weather disruption as well as the planned closure of the line through Gravesend, where the station has been refurbished to good reviews today. We also know that rebuilding London Bridge will be disruptive for some, although hopefully lead to a much improved service through that station when complete.

Why though should customers have to queue a dozen-deep at a single ticket machine, with similar numbers at a ticket office manned by just one person, when trying to pay money to Southeastern?

It was entirely predictable that peak numbers of commuters would need to renew season tickets, yet Southeastern appear to have made no proper effort to cater to that demand.

Southeastern are able to ‘surge’ with teams of enforcement staff at particular stations. Why not ticket sellers with mobile machines when needed?

Medway Commuter Survey 2014

MPs Mark Reckless and Tracey Crouch in ChathamTracey Crouch and I have at last succeeded with our campaign, supported by Medway’s Conservative councillors, to end the train fare escalator which saw Southeastern fares go up by inflation in the Retail Price Index (RPI)+3% every year under Labour.

We had already cut that back to RPI +1% but I said that we would keep campaigning until above inflation increases were ended. The Chancellor has delivered and fare increases are now inflation only. I will now campaign for fares to be reduced below the rate of inflation.

Please share your views on local train services by completing the survey below and sending it back to me.

BLOG: A day in Parliament

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Today, Parliament heard the Chancellor’s Autumn statement. However, the day began with Business, Innovation and Skills Questions, where Vince Cable took to the Despatch Box to answer Members of Parliament’s questions. I hoped Vince Cable might support our Christmas fair and Dickens weekend in Medway.


Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con):

Our plans predate small business Saturday, but this weekend in Rochester we have a Christmas fair and also a Dickens weekend. They attract many thousands of people to Rochester, which has, almost entirely, independent small businesses. Will the Minister join me in welcoming that?

However, our Business Secretary was reluctant to show any Christmas cheer, and responded with cynicism.

The Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley, was not prone to a dose of pre-Christmas cheer either. I have been pushing, along with colleagues, to try and prevent the lifting of controls on Bulgarian and Romanian immigration due on the 1st January, 2014. We intended to amend the Immigration Bill, which was expected to return before the House in December. However, this bill has now been delayed until after the borders are opened to Romania and Bulgaria.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con):
Why are the remaining stages of the Immigration Bill being delayed? It would surely make sense for the House to vote on whether to extend the immigration restrictions for Bulgaria and Romania in advance of their being lifted on 1 January.

Mr Lansley:
I assure my hon. Friend that the Immigration Bill is not being delayed; it is simply that there is a lot of legislation before the House. In the future business before Christmas, I have announced progress on five Government Bills. Let me also explain to him that if there was a debate on the Immigration Bill in this House before Christmas, it would not necessarily have an impact on the timing of Royal Assent, because this is the first House that the Bill must pass through, not the second. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced important measures on this matter last week. I am therefore hopeful that regulations will be laid before the House shortly.

Fortunately, good news in the Autumn statement was to follow. The Chancellor announced that growth forecasts have been upgraded from 0.6% to 1.4% in 2013 and from 1.8% to 2.4% in 2014. Employment is up, the deficit is falling and debt is falling faster. Following the good news, I questioned our Chancellor on my campaign to close capital gains tax loopholes.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con):
Long before the last election, my right hon. Friend raised the unfairness of overseas residents buying the most expensive London properties without paying capital gains tax. Is he surprised that it has been left to him to close those loopholes and ensure that overseas residents pay both capital gains tax and proper stamp duty?

Mr Osborne:
I know that my hon. Friend has campaigned on this issue. When I announced this measure in the autumn statement, one member of the Opposition Front-Bench team said, “Why aren’t you doing it sooner?”. Labour had 13 years to make this tax change, and the man who actually designed the tax policies and wrote the statements is the shadow Chancellor. I find it extraordinary that, whether it is dealing with this unfairness in capital gains tax or the general unfairness where they boasted that people in the City were paying lower tax rates than people who cleaned for them, we have stepped in to deal with the unfairness.

Perhaps the most important part of George Osborne’s announcement today was the package of measures he announced which will help 6000 businesses in Medway with their business rates.

I am also delighted that Tracey Crouch and I have at last succeeded with our campaign to end the train fare escalator which saw Southeastern fares go up by RPI +3% under Labour. We had already cut that back to RPI +1% but I said we would keep campaigning until above inflation increases were ended. The Chancellor has now delivered and in January 2014 the fare increases will be inflation only. I am proud the Government will be bringing Christmas cheer to businesses across Rochester and Strood, even if some of our ministers may lack a festive spirit.

Southeastern let down long-suffering commuters – again

Southeastern Must Do BetterI have been deluged by tweets over the past few hours by commuters furious with Southeastern trains for cancelling trains across their network, except HS1, even apparently dumping passengers at stations far from home.

To add insult to injury Southeastern are still forcing people to pay £ supplements to travel on HS1. I am demanding such charges be refunded by Southeastern.

Kent MPs were told by Southeastern at several presentations that they had now put in place proper contingency preparations for snow, and that lessons had been learnt from previous years, yet nothing really seems to have changed.

A blanket cancellation policy for what has initially been far short of blanket snowfall is pathetic.

It is a Friday night, the worst time for many commuters to be let down. Yet Southeastern haven’t even had to deal with train drivers not being able to get in from home, or get trains back in place for a next morning commute.

Where is Charles Horton? Will anyone listen to his explanations?

Mark Reckless welcomes new train station for Rochester

Campaigning for a Fair Fare at Rochester station

Mark Reckless MP campaigning at Rochester station for a fairer deal for Medway commuters

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the news that Rochester railway station is set for a massive £26m rebuild.

The proposals, which are part of Network Rail’s scheme to invest £37bn in rail infrastructure across the UK, will see the station move from it’s current location at the Chatham end of Rochester High Street to Corporation Street opposite the cathedral in the heart of Rochester. Work is expected to be completed in 2015.

Speaking of the proposed plans, Mark Reckless said:

“Following my successful campaign in 2009 to get rush hour fast services to Victoria and Cannon Street to stop at Rochester, the station has seen a considerable increase in passengers using the station for their daily commute.

The proposed plan to rebuild the station as set out by Network Rail will come as a welcome boost for many of the hard-pressed commuters in my constituency who, for too long were hit by RPI+3% increases with no commensurate improvement in the service or facilities which they use on a daily basis.

This new station will be better appointed and more convenient for many local residents. Since it will be further away from Chatham station, the move will strengthen the case for having more peak commuter services stop at Rochester. The move and associated improvements to signalling should also cut journey times to London and make Rochester more attractive for commuters.”

For further information on Network Rail’s plans for the South East click here.