Given a number of recent developments, including meetings with both the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, and the Managing Director of Southeastern, David Statham, I thought it would be useful to share an update on the progress being made on rail.
As many residents will know, Bromley and Chislehurst has the second largest number of rail commuters of any constituency in England and Wales, following only Lewisham West and Penge. Strengthening services and boosting connectivity in our area therefore continues to be a real priority for me, both as a daily commuter who has witnessed a deterioration in day-to-day standards and, of course, as your MP.
That is why I continue to meet regularly with ministers and officials at the Department for Transport (DfT), as well as with the senior management of both Southeastern and Network Rail, to press for tangible change, including on the points below:
- A big push of this new Government is to improve rail reliability. The DfT has already set out a £48 billion rail improvement programme, the largest rail modernisation effort since the Victorian times.
- Specific local projects this encompasses include:
- Significant congestion relief at Lewisham station;
- Congestion relief going through the Denmark Hill area;
- Increasing platform length and expanding concourse capacity at London Victoria.
- I very much welcome the introduction of Delay Repay 15 in September. The previous 30 minute threshold for compensation simply wasn’t fit for purpose in commuterbelt constituencies like ours. Of course, there’s still a lot more to do, and in an ideal world, there would be no need to seek recompense, but this is a step in the right direction nonetheless.
- The Transport Secretary has also announced a new system that will measure train delays to the minute, giving passengers more information and helping them hold those responsible for delays to account. Under the current system, trains are considered delayed if they are 5 or 10 minutes late. This will now change to measuring punctuality to a single minute of its scheduled arrival time.
December 2019 timetable
- There were a number of welcome proposals in Southeastern’s recent consultation on the December 2019 timetable. I have attached my own response at the bottom of this page.
- The overall aim is to deliver quicker journeys and mitigate those regular delays that come about as a result of clashes and interactions with other services. Proposals include:
- A number of small changes to the timetabling of the Grove Park to Bromley North service in the evening to make joining onward connections easier;
- Slightly amended start times of London Charing Cross to Sevenoaks services as well as the 06:56 Sevenoaks to Cannon Street service to help prevent disruption caused by other services on the line.
- Although this is welcome, as my response points out, Southeastern still need to do far more to improve connections at Grove Park, something I have been lobbying for improvements on over a number of years, including in various debates I have tabled in the Commons.
- As part of the consultation, I also urged Southeastern to reinstate all of the former Bickley to Victoria services that were cut in May 2018, and requested that they reassess the feasibility of reopening the Bromley North line so that direct services to and from central London can run.
- After successfully campaigning to have a lift installed at Bromley South in 2012, I’ve continued to press the Government to deliver a more accessible rail network.
- Plans for significant upgrades and lift installations are now in the design stage at Shortlands, St Mary Cray and Petts Wood stations. This work, part of the Government’s £300 million Access for All scheme, will be completed by March 2024 at the latest.
- A further £20 million of funding is currently open to bids for smaller enhancements, including, amongst other improvements, handrails, tactile paving, new lighting and signage.
- I recently submitted a nomination for Chislehurst and Elmstead Woods as part of this process, a copy of which I have again attached at the bottom of this page.
- I also continue to discuss with Network Rail and Southeastern the possibility of a major redesign of Bromley South to help deliver greater station capacity to meet increased demand. Included in this, I would like to see an additional entrance and exit to ease station overcrowding.
- Over the last few years devolving responsibility for our local metro services to TfL has been one of my main priorities and is something I have persistently lobbied the Government on. My key requests are all included in the letter below which I sent to the Prime Minister, Transport Secretary and Rail Minister in August.
- I remain hopeful that the Prime Minister will reconsider the policies on rail devolution he championed while Mayor of London. In real terms, that means handing over responsibility for metro rail services to TfL, who are better placed, and have a successful track record, of delivering real benefits for passengers travelling in suburban, commuterheavy areas like Bromley. It would ensure greater alignment with TfL’s tube, bus and tram services on fare levels, ease of interchange, timetabling, ticketing and passenger information systems.
- It would also, I believe, end the inevitable conflict in geographically large franchise areas like ours which sees the needs of suburban passengers pitted against those travelling from further afield. Clearly, neither should lose out, but under the current system, no one gets the level of service they deserve.
- As many residents will be aware, the ongoing Williams Review seeks to provide a comprehensive assessment of the rail industry. I believe this has the potential to act as a catalyst for root-and-branch reform of the franchising system, and look forward to seeing its recommendations once they are published in full shortly.
- As part of this, I have, in particular, been pressing for universal smart ticketing, the automation of compensation and improvements in accessibility. Some of these enhancements will take time, so in the interim I am especially keen to see the ringfencing of unclaimed compensation, specifically put aside for rail upgrades.
The current franchise arrangements under Southeastern are in place until April 2020, but its future after that remains uncertain. Whatever happens between now and then, I’ll continue to do everything I can to ensure the passenger experience improves for all of us who travel on the network.