Tag Archives: southeastern rail

Rochester train station speeding towards completion

Earlier today I was the guest of Network Rail at Rochester’s fast-emerging new station. I am grateful to Sara, Mary and site manager Tony for showing me around this amazing project as it speeds towards completion.

WP_20150414_051All is on schedule for the station’s completion and the introduction of a new timetable by 16th December. This should include two extra 12 car trains per hour during the morning peak with more trains stopping then at Rochester, the fruition of a long-term campaign for me.

Crucially, it was confirmed to me today, that there will be continuing scope for reduction in journey times to London after December.

Some trains may be a minute or two faster from December. However, greater time reductions should be in prospect thereafter, with line speeds potentially being increased as the safety and reliability of the new signalling system is proven.

Trains running 3-4 minutes faster to London would be great for Rochester, the wider Medway Towns, and all the way down the line to Ramsgate.

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Meeting Southeastern’s new top man

B-HulRUIgAAV92-I am grateful to Southeastern Train’s new Managing Director David Statham for coming to see me in Parliament today, and for bringing with him for our discussions their timetabling guru Richard Dean. Both are pictured with me. A Labour MP was quick to point out that we all seem to be wearing purple ties, although I am sure there is no significance in that!

Discussions included seeking to resolve, or at least bring to Southeastern’s attention, the range of complaints I receive about their services. Significant elements of my postbag (including electronic) regarding Southeastern recently have been 1) feedback on major timetable changes, 2) London Bridge works, 3) shortening of the 17.25 out of St Pancras to six carriages, 4) level of heating on trains. The outcomes from our meeting were:

  1. Initial further changes to the timetable will be implemented from 9th March to take account of feedback received. Southeastern will discuss their new timetable at public meetings in London at 61 Whitehall at 2pm on 4th March and at Priestfields, Gillingham at 6pm on 17th March (they encourage people who gain the new timetable also to get in touch, or otherwise changes may be made only listening to people who suffer from changes);
  2. All concerned (primarily Network Rail) apologise to customers for severe unplanned disruption at London Bridge around the New Year. However, planned London Bridge service reduction for Cannon Street and Charing Cross trains through to August 2016, and then again in reverse for a further year and a half, are defended as necessary to improve the reliability of what had become a very unsatisfactory service. Improvements may also facilitate some further train paths in future but a serious step change would require the southern extension of the Bakerloo line to take over the Hayes line into London Bridge;
  3. The good news here is Southeastern tell me they should in a few weeks be able to return this 17.25 St Pancras to Broadstairs service back to 12 coaches from the current six; and
  4. Southeastern ask individuals who are unhappy with heating levels to specify the services concerned to them including which coach number they were sat in.

Final Success for a Long Campaign?

Some years back I persuaded Southastern to stop one or two of their faster morning peak services to Cannon Street and Victoria at Rochester. However, it remains disappointing that we still have nonthing except slow services between 6.22 and 8.22 to Victoria and between 6.41 and 8.11 to Cannon Street.

When our new station was confirmed for Rochester I renewed my campaign to get more of these morning rush hour services to stop at Rochester. Hence, I secured today’s meeting with the new Southeastern MD and their head of timetabling.

I argued that it was surely imperative to make full use of our new station, given that £26 million of public money is being spent on it. I also made the point that the new station would be further from Chatham station and this strengthened the argument for trains stopping at both. New signalling should also allow an extra stop at Rochester without increasing journey times for others.

The trains which I want to stop at Rochester, which currently stop at Chatham but not at Rochester, are the 6.48, 7.20 and 7.46 Chatham to Victoria services and the 7.24 and 7.50 services from Chatham to Cannon Street.

The feedback I received from Southeastern on this was positive and I am optimistic that my campaign for a full morning peak service from Rochester may soon be successfully concluded.

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.

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.

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?