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Administrators, please tell me how to add a video from youtube to a post?


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The following transcript is the debate in Parliament about Southeastern, their performance and state of services made by Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab):

Southeastern Train Services

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Gavin Barwell.)

9.34 pm

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): I am aware that the Minister is not in his place. I am told that he is in a car on his way here. I just hope that he is not on a Southeastern train.

Southeastern runs virtually all the rail services that serve my constituency, providing links to a range of central London stations as well as out to Kent. There are seven stations in my constituency: Hither Green, Blackheath, Lee, Grove Park, Catford Bridge, Catford and Beckenham Hill. There are four railway lines, three of which converge at Lewisham station.

Although Lewisham station, which sits on the border of my constituency and that of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Dame Joan Ruddock), has the docklands light railway, my patch of London remains untouched by the tube map. Extending the Bakerloo line to Lewisham might be the long-term aspiration of many of us, but for the time being the trains operated by Southeastern are one of the key ways in which my constituents get about.

I am a conscious that a list of seven stations and four train lines may lead people to think that my constituency is well served by rail links. On the face of it, it is well served, but the daily reality for many of the 37,000 people in Lewisham who use the trains to get to and from work every day is grim: hot, horrendously overcrowded, late and slow trains, with a hefty price tag to boot. I am not prone to exaggeration, but I honestly believe that in this country we transport cattle better than some of my constituents.

Just last month, I was contacted by a constituent who told me that he had seen

“2 people collapse in the last 10 days due to overcrowded and overheated trains”.

This problem is very serious, and if the Minister had been present, I would have invited him to join me one morning to experience the problem for himself. Trains arriving at stations such as Hither Green and Blackheath at any time between 6.30 and 9.30 in the morning are already full. My constituents squeeze themselves on if they are lucky; if they cannot, they wait for the next train. I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, for being graphic, but people literally start their working day stuck in one another's armpits.

The journey to London Bridge should take between 10 and 12 minutes, but routinely takes between 20 and 30 minutes. There is often a constant stream of tweets from Southeastern, usefully providing the information that a train that was supposed to have eight cars will instead have six or four cars.

To add insult to injury, year on year we are paying more and more for the pleasure. An annual season ticket on Southeastern for zones 1 to 3, a point-to-point ticket that allows travel only from one station to another, now costs £976. It has gone up by £216 since 2010—a 28% increase in four years. Travelcards, which allow onward use of the tube and bus network, cost considerably more. The rising cost of those tickets has massively
6 May 2014 : Column 124

outstripped the negligible changes that people have seen in their pay packets and it makes a very significant dent in household budgets.

I have lived in the Lewisham and Hither Green area for the past 12 years. In that time, platforms have become noticeably busier, and that is borne out by statistics compiled by the Office of Rail Regulation. In 2002-03, Lewisham was the 55th busiest station in the country, and there were 3.6 million entries to or exits from the station that year. In 2012-13, the last year for which data are available, that number more than doubled to 8.2 million, with a further 1.7 million interchanges, making it now the 38th busiest station nationwide. That is significant growth.

That pattern is repeated at all other local stations and is consistent with the regional breakdown of growth in rail usage, which shows that growth in London is markedly greater than anywhere else in the country. To put that in a national context, Lewisham is a busier station than Newcastle, Nottingham or Southampton; it is comparable with a station like Sheffield. When we talk about increasing capacity on our rail network, we must not forget places such as Lewisham which are neither part of the affluent commuter belt nor on London’s tube map.

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this debate on an issue that she has spoken out about in the past. Does she agree that although poor reliability may be Southeastern’s main failing, it is compounded by the poor communication with the commuters who are constituents of hers and mine?

Heidi Alexander: I do agree. In part, the problem is reliability, but one of the main issues that I want to focus on is the degree of overcrowding that we experience on our train services.

The case for tackling overcrowding on my part of the rail network is irrefutable. The problem is getting worse and is likely to deteriorate further if urgent action is not taken. Thousands of new homes are planned in places like Lewisham and Catford over the next few years, and it goes without saying that future residents will need to be able to get around. They will need to be able to get to work and to get back from other parts of London at weekends. Basically, they need a decent railway service to live their lives.

The population of Lewisham continues to grow. Despite asking various parliamentary questions on this subject, I am at a loss to understand when commuters in my constituency are going to see longer trains. All I know is that, according to an answer I received on 8 April, the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), who is the railways Minister, does not think there is demand for longer trains on all services. Beyond that, I am afraid that I cannot get much sense out of the Department or Southeastern.

Currently, no 12-car trains serve stations in my constituency during the rush hour, but there should be such trains. Platforms have been extended. I suspect that millions of pounds has been spent on doing that job, although again, despite my asking parliamentary questions, the Department cannot tell me how much has been spent and refers me to Network Rail. When I have asked Network Rail, it has not got back to me. We have spent money on lengthening platforms but we do
6 May 2014 : Column 125

not have longer trains to stop at them. It is almost as good as the one about the aircraft carriers with no aircraft to use them. Surely in difficult economic times we should not be wasting expenditure in this way—we should be reaping benefit from it.

In the written answer I received from the Minister at the beginning of April, I was told that a study would be done in 2016 and that some capacity enhancements may be forthcoming from 2019. That is at least five years away. It is simply not good enough. The Minister is currently in the process of negotiating a new “direct award” contract with Southeastern. Following the mess that the Government have made of letting franchises elsewhere in the country, they have put on hold the letting of the new Southeastern franchise, deciding instead to award a series of shorter, directly awarded contracts. Is there no way in which they could negotiate longer trains on some services calling at stations in my constituency sooner than 2019? Could some trains not start closer into London?

I would be really grateful if the Minister could explain the issue. Is it the availability of rolling stock? Is it an unwillingness on the part of Government to fund longer trains? Is it that when he looks at overcrowding statistics for services into London he thinks that there is not a problem on services run by Southeastern? If it is the latter, I would urge him to speak carefully to his civil servants about how the standard definitions of overcrowding —passengers in excess of capacity, otherwise known as PIXCs—are calculated....

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I am being harassed by PCN Debt Recovery and Prosecution Service for an unpaid parking charge. the story so far:
On 9 April I received a letter from the above demanding £90 for allegedly 'not parking correctly within a marked bay at Ashford A Railway Station Car Park'. the car was parked at Ashford station (in car park B) on that day but there was no notice on the car and the letter says that it is now too late to pay the discounted rate and too late for an appeal. I sent an email to them saying all this and asking for evidence on 9 April but heard nothing more.
Today, another letter - parking charge now £165 pounds with threat of magistrates court if I do not pay.

Now, as the first letter alleges that the car was parked incorrectly (not sure what that means) and in the wrong car park, I cannot help but think this is a try-on and simply does not stand up.

Thoughts please

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A Czech Pensioner crosses a level crossing whilst it's closed, gets hit by a train causing his shoe to fly off. He then gets up and carries on walking.

Ok this is under humour only as there was no other category to put this.

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@iansblog on twitter posted yesterday an interview made by Network Rail on BBC Radio Sussex about the current state of the Hastings Line and when that line is due to reopen.

If you listen to the interview you'll hear Network Rail effectively say that they won't know until next week (March 17th) at the earliest before they'll even think of making a decision on reopening the line. At that point the line would be celebrating [sic] 3 months of disruption in some form or another.

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Maidstone Borough Council has just tweeted this advance notice about the footpath between Maidstone East and Maidstone Barracks will be closed for one week in April for resurfacing work.

click to expand

This will mean it will be difficult to move between those two stations next week if there is any disruption.

The text on the image reads:
Maidstone Borough Council wrote:Advance warning footpath closure

The public footpath between Station Road and Buckland Hill (Maidstone East and Maidstone Barracks Stations) will be closed between Monday 7 April 2014 and Sunday 13 April 2014 for resurfacing and improvement works.

During the closure, pedestrians are recomended to divert via the following route.

The suggested (only) route on the image is to walk down to the main bridges in the town centre and then back along St Peter street.

So, if there is any instance where we have to walk from Maidstone East, my suggestion is not to go to Maidstone Barracks but to Maidstone West as the walk will be shorter.

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Posted yesterday on the Southeastern Website:
Southeastern wrote:Network Rail Hastings Line engineering work continues
Date: 11 Mar 2014

We’re sorry to advise that the Hastings Line will NOT have a full train service until further notice.

Network Rail has advised that further ground movement means that more work is needed to complete the track repair. They will inform us when it is safe to run trains on this line.

A shuttle train service will run between:
  • Hastings and Battle
  • Robertsbridge and London
A bus replacement service will operate between Battle and Robertsbridge.

Please check our live running information before you travel.

Customers can use London Tube trains on reasonable routes at no additional charge. Customers with tickets for destinations including, Battle, Crowhurst, West St Leonards, St Leonards Warrior Square and Hastings can also use high speed services. This also applies to ticket holders for Bexhill.

I did hear yesterday that something might be said today (Wed March 12) but Southeastern are still tweeting this page so until we know more, Hastings commuters will still have disruption for some time yet.

NB: In 5 days time, March 17th it would have been 3 months now since the initial landslide occurred.

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Southeastern have issued the following warning of forecasted bad weather for tonight, Friday February 14 with a 50mph speed restriction being imposed on some routes:
Southeastern wrote:Speed restrictions will be in place on some parts of the network tonight (Friday 14 February) due to forecast bad weather. We advise passengers travelling this evening and early tomorrow to check before you start your journey in case services are delayed.

With strong winds and heavy rain forecast overnight, Network Rail has put in place a 50 mph speed restriction on some routes from 7pm today. As a result, some trains may run slower than usual and some may be delayed or cancelled at short notice.

We will offer the best service that the weather allows and will provide regular updates including live running information on our website. Please ensure you check for the latest information before you travel and listen carefully to station announcements regarding short-notice changes to services.


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Railway to close between Battle and Robertsbridge following further landslips

A further landslip on the railway between Battle and Robertsbridge means the railway will be closing for urgent repair work – starting after tomorrow morning’s rush-hour.

The line will remained closed for at least two weeks. During that time, trains from London will terminate at Robertsbridge, with a connecting bus service to Battle and a shuttle train between Battle and Hastings.

The line is currently open with a severe speed restriction and there will be a limited peak time service to Hastings on Monday evening and Tuesday morning. The last direct train to Hastings will leave London Cannon Street at 19.04 this evening and the last direct train to London will leave Hastings at 07.27 tomorrow.
Network Rail’s route managing director, Fiona Taylor wrote:Safety is our top priority and we cannot safely carry out such extensive repair work with trains still running and with more bad weather on the way.

This has been a very difficult time for everyone using this stretch of railway and we appreciate passengers’ patience while we do the work that is needed. With two serious embankment failures on one stretch of line, this is the best, quickest and safest way of fixing the problems. We apologise for the further disruption this will cause.

As soon as we have a more detailed idea of how long the work will take, we will let passengers know so they can plan ahead.

There are two embankment slips, one at Marley Farm and the other near to Whatlington Viaduct near Battle. Both require major repairs, with piling to be installed to shore up the earthworks and new material delivered to replace that lost in the slips.
Alison Nolan, customer relations manager for Southeastern wrote:We’ve made arrangements for Southeastern tickets to be accepted on Southern services between Hastings and Ashford for the duration of the closure. Passengers can then board high speed services to London St Pancras International as an alternative to get into London for no extra cost.

Buses will be in place between Battle and Robertsbridge, and car parking tickets will be also be accepted at any of our station car parks between Robertsbridge and Frant for those who would prefer to drive to any of these stations for connecting services.

We’re sorry for the continuing disruption to services, it’s been a challenging time across the network with all the wet weather. We’re doing everything we can to keep people moving and we’d like to thank people for their patience.

Check for live running updates here or plan your journey at Nationalrail.co.uk

Further storm conditions, with heavy rain and high winds are expected on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, meaning temporary speed restrictions will be put in place for safety reasons. These will affect many services from 10pm tomorrow (Tuesday) and the first trains on Wednesday.

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