Michael wholeheartedly supports the fight for a greatly improved rail service, and is working together with local Councillors to ensure residents’ voices are heard.
On 6 December 2017, Michael met Andy Mellors, Chief Executive of South Western Railway (SWR), together with Cllr Charlotte Morley and Cllr Mike Goodman. They discussed SWR’s new timetable proposals, and expressed to Mr Mellors the concerns that constituents raised, such as the cessation of direct services to and from London Waterloo.
Michael then wrote to Mr Mellors on 14 December 2017 to outline the pertinent points that many constituents have made to him. Mr Mellors' reply is attached below.
Michael also wrote to the Rail Minister to ask him to do everything possible to help SWR preserve the vital direct connection to and from London Waterloo for his constituents and local businesses. The Rail Minister's reply is attached below.
SWR’s new timetable proposals also included faster journey times from Bagshot, Camberley and Frimley to Waterloo, which would be achieved by reducing connection times at Ash Vale.
In April 2019, following the Consultation, SWR reported that it decided to retain the direct peak services between Waterloo and Camberley, and would add an extra evening peak return service.
The new timetable was due to be introduced in December 2018, but was delayed until May 2019. Disappointingly, the proposed faster journey times were not implemented that May, and the existing timetable was largely rolled over.
On 20 September 2019, Michael met Surrey County Council to discuss securing improvements to the rail service, and wrote again to the Transport Secretary and to Network Rail. Attached below is the response of 24 October 2019 from Network Rail, which explains why the improvements proposed by SWR have not yet materialised.
Below is a timeline of the recent action Michael has been taking:
January 2020 - Michael met the new Managing Director of SWR, Mark Hopwood, to discuss rail services in Surrey Heath and Mr Hopwood provide an update which is attached below.
February 2020 – Michael also met the Chief Executive of Network Rail, Andrew Haines, to press for a better rail service.
June 2020 - Michael wrote again to Andrew Haines, and to the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, to ask for further information on potential opportunities to improve the rail service from Surrey Heath. He received a reply from Andrew Haines on 25 June, and a copy is attached below.
December 2020 - Michael wrote again to Andrew Haines to enquire about the progress of the feasibility study exploring the possibility of a Frimley to Alton Chord, which would potentially greatly improve journey times for many residents. Andrew Haines responded that utilising this chord would disproportionally impact wider journey times to Waterloo and that this was not, therefore, an option they could pursue. Andrew Haines did, however, explain that Network Rail will be seeking to identify changes through timetable interventions and additional services for onward journeys that could further reduce journey times for Surrey Heath residents.
April 2021 – Michael wrote to the Transport Secretary regarding an application to the Restoring your Railway Ideas Fund which included proposals to significantly reduce journey times for constituents travelling from Camberley to Bracknell, Reading, and Guildford. Unfortunately, the Minister of State for Transport responded in October 2021, explaining that the proposals were not considered suitable.
September 2021 - Michael met representatives from South Western Railway and County Councillor Trefor Hogg to discuss the December 2022 timetable consultation. Michael explained that many constituents are eager for an improved train service locally, and he was pleased that SWR listened attentively to the concerns he and Cllr Hogg raised on behalf of local residents. Final timetables are expected to be published in September 2022.
February 2022 – Michael wrote to Network Rail to request a further meeting to discuss improvements for Surrey Heath rail services. He also wrote again to South Western Railway to underline his wish for improved journey times to be implemented in the December 2022 timetable.
March 2022 – Michael held a virtual meeting with representatives from both Network Rail and South Western Railway. A series of issues affecting Surrey Heath residents were discussed, including journey times to London and the cleanliness and quality of stations in his constituency. Michael was encouraged to hear that both Network Rail and SWR were investigating how to improve local stations, and promised to work with Michael and volunteers to ensure that Surrey Heath stations receive the love they need.
May 2022 – Michael received the below update regarding South Western Railway’s new Community Rail Partnership scheme, which involves SWR working with local volunteer groups to help improve local stations.
September 2022 – Upon the release of the December timetable changes, Michael was extremely disappointed to learn that Surrey Heath had not received any improved journey times.
October 2022: spoke in the House of Commons Chamber during the Great British Railways Urgent Question and pressed the Minister for long overdue improvements to Surrey Heath rail services, and you can watch his question here.
November 2022 – Michael followed up his question in the Chamber by writing to the Transport Secretary to give further details on the inadequate service in Surrey Heath. He explained that journey times from Surrey Heath have not improved since the age of Queen Victoria, and in some ways the service has even declined. He also pointed out that this was especially frustrating given that the promised timetable changes planned for December 2018, which would have improved journey times to and from London for Surrey Heath constituents, were disappointingly abandoned. Michael requested a meeting to discuss what more could be done for Surrey Heath residents.
February 2023 – Michael received the below response from the Transport Secretary explaining the acute challenges which require overcoming to improve the services, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, and agreed to Michael’s request for a meeting.
April 2023 – Michael met Transport Secretary Mark Harper together with Rail Minister Huw Merriman to discuss the aforementioned challenges in more detail, and Michael explained further the considerable problems with the service in Surrey Heath. Mark promised to continue to monitor the situation and suggested also contacting South Western Railway to discuss timetabling further. Michael subsequently contacted SWR to request a meeting.
July 2023 – Michael met Claire Mann, Managing Director of South Western Railway, to discuss timetabling, and whilst it was frustrating that she explained that the hugely complicated and intricate network of lines leaves little leeway at present for the tweaking of timetables, Michael was encouraged to learn that SWR is hoping to introduce a brand new fleet of faster, more spacious, and more reliable trains towards the end of the year, which should free up capacity leading to greater flexibility across the network – hopefully leading to faster journey times for those in Surrey Heath. Michael will be sure to continue to follow how this progresses, and will write again to South Western Railways later in the year to enquire about the introduction of the new fleet, including more specifically how it will affect services in Surrey.