Category Archives: transport

MP hears concerns of older residents from rural Medway

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Older people from the Hoo Peninsula have told Mark Reckless that he must ensure that the needs of older people in rural communities in England are properly considered by all levels of government.

The call came at an event hosted by Karen Treacy of Age UK Medway at The Village Hall, Mallard Way, Lower Stoke, Rochester on 23rd August 2013 and was part of Age UK’s nationwide campaign “Later Life in Rural England” which aims to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities faced by older people living in rural England.

Issues and concerns raised during the meeting included:-

  • Loneliness and isolation: several residents feel lonely and isolated and wish she had someone to talk to on a regular basis
  • Policing in the area: a few residents complained of trouble caused by youths in the area and lack of police on patrol to deal with it
  • Bus routes and services: there was a general concern from residents that there is no direct bus route to the main hospital and that many have to pay for taxis to attend appointments.  Buses run far less frequently than in town areas and residents feel that there should be more buses running more frequently
  • GPs: It was felt that there should be a medical centre similar to the Will Adams in Gillingham available to all residents
  • Sheltered accommodation and residential care: residents complained that most of the housing is now owned privately and costs are extortionate
  • Post office: there was concern that the local post office was moving to a less convenient location but Mark Reckless said that this was now not going ahead
  • District nurse:  A resident claimed that the local district nurse was being removed from Hoo and they now have to travel to Rochester to see a nurse
  • Oil heating : A resident asked what is the government going to do to cut costs

Mark Reckless MP said:

“I was delighted to meet with some of the older members of our community to listen to and discuss their concerns about living in the countryside.

There are many positive aspects of living in a rural environment – people in the countryside do tend to live longer. However, as we heard, there are also a number of issues which we need to continue working on such as rural transport, energy costs, and access to health services.

I would like to thank Age UK Medway for organising this very useful debate, and also all the residents who took the time to come along and share their views with me.”

John Norley, Chief Executive of Age UK Medway said:

“Life in rural parts of Medway can be tough for many older people with too many struggling to get to the shops and hospital because of lack of local bus services.

“The charity’s campaign “Later life in Rural England”, is calling for all levels of government to:

  • “rural proof” policy and services that may have an impact on rural areas and make older people a priority in this process
  • Take the “rural premium” and social value of services into account
  • Support community participation
  • Target social isolation in rural areas

To support the Later life in Rural England campaign or to find out more, please visit www.ageuk.org.uk/rural or contact Alice Woudhysen, Senior Campaigns Officer on alicewoudhuysen@agueuk.org.uk or 02030330516.

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MP urges residents to have their say on Lower Thames crossing

Lower Thames Crossing: the options - Click on map  to view full size

Lower Thames Crossing: the options – Click on map to view full size

Mark Reckless, local MP for Rochester and Strood, is urging residents in Medway to make their views known as part of the government consultation on a proposed new road crossing on the Thames to help alleviate congestion at the Dartford-Thurrock crossing.

This consultation is designed to gather views on the preferred location for additional road-based river crossing capacity in the Lower Thames area.

Responses to this consultation will form part of the evidence base that government will use to make a decision on where to locate a new crossing.

The location options considered are:

  • option A: at the site of the existing A282 Dartford-Thurrock crossing
  • option B: connecting the A2 with the A1089
  • option C: connecting the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30
  • option C variant: connecting the M2 with the A13 and the M25 between junctions 29 and 30, and additionally widening the A229 between the M2 and the M20

Speaking of the consultation, Mark said:

“I am pleased that the government is committed to tackling congestion in the North Kent area, particularly when so many of the residents and businesses in my constituency are so reliant on the existing Dartford crossing.

However, a number of concerns have been raised with me with regards to the possible impact which any new crossing may have on our local environment. While none of the final options presented appear to be quite as ecologically destructive as those bizarrely supported by the Medway Labour group, I would strongly urge all residents to make sure that their voices are heard by contributing to the consultation.”

You can find out more through the consultation page or by attending one of the following public information events being held next month in the Lower Thames area:

  • Thursday 13 June, Dartford Library, Central Park, Dartford, Kent, DA1 1EU, from 2pm to 8pm
  • Saturday 15 June, Grays Library, Orsett Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 5DX, from 10am to 5pm
  • Monday 17 June, Chadwell Information Centre, Brentwood Road, Chadwell St Mary, Grays, Essex, RM16 4JP, from 2pm to 7pm
  • Thursday 20 June, Bluewater (Thames Walk at the entrance to the plaza), Greenhithe, Kent, DA9 9ST, from 10am to 9pm
  • Friday 21 June, Lakeside (level two near the customer service desk), West Thurrock Way, Grays, Essex, RM20 2ZP, from 10am to 10pm
  • Saturday 22 June, Gravesend Library, Windmill Street, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 1BE, from 9am to 5pm
  • Monday 24 June, Basildon District Council, Basildon Centre (reception), St Martin’s Square, Basildon, Essex. SS14 1DL, from 11am to 5pm

Please respond to the consultation by 16 July.

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Thames Estuary Airport: The Fight Continues…

020320134118Article originally featured in Kent on Sunday – Click Here To Download

The Mayor of London and Foster & Partners are not the first to suggest building an airport in the Thames Estuary. The last government did that with Cliffe airport. That was ruled out, not least on grounds of cost, and these latest reheated proposals lack feasibility just as their predecessors did.

Despite Boris’ gung-ho attitude, support for a Thames Estuary airport remains extremely limited. The substantive report by the Transport Select Committee, published on Friday, which drives a coach and horses through the proposals, follows hot on the heels of the London Assembly’s findings that a Thames Estuary airport is not a viable option.

By advocating the Thames Estuary airport, Boris wanted to take the focus off Heathrow expansion, but by backing such an ill-advised, economically and environmentally unfeasible scheme he only succeeded in putting the focus back on Heathrow, although other options may make more sense.

I welcome the decision by the Transport Select Committee to reject a new hub airport in or around the Thames Estuary. It is a huge boost for the thousands of residents across Medway, particularly those living on the Hoo Peninsula, who are opposed to such proposals. However, it is important that we stay focused on our ultimate goal of seeing off these pie in the sky plans once and for all.

With cost estimates ranging widely from £70-100 billion, this scheme would not only have added at least £50 to each plane ticket but would also require huge swathes of public subsidy, money which we simply do not have. Not only would the estuary airport impose a massive financial cost to the nation as a whole, it would devastate Medway and subject many across Kent to constant aircraft noise.

Moreover, Heathrow could not continue to operate alongside a Thames Estuary airport, or airlines would not relocate from Heathrow to a much more expensive and less commercially attractive new airport. Airlines themselves have indicated that they are not prepared to move to an estuary airport from Heathrow – and are even less willing to pay for such a scheme.

Therefore, for an estuary hub to work, Heathrow would have to be forcibly closed. How this would happen in practice is a question which remains unanswered and it has been suggested taxpayers would have to pay £20bn to compensate Heathrow and associated businesses. The closure of Heathrow would necessitate a shift of at least 75,000 directly employed staff to a Thames Estuary airport. No council in peacetime has ever been asked to re-home so many people and the implications of such a task would be almost unimaginable for our area.

RSPB map showing extent of Foster proposal

RSPB map showing full extent of Foster+Partners’ proposal

The site of the proposed airport is home to many internationally protected wildlife and environmental sites as well RSPB bird and nature sanctuaries. The likelihood of bird strikes on planes would be far higher than at other airports. The location chosen for the estuary airport would not only be environmentally devastating, but on the wrong side of London for access from most of the UK, as well as being technically unfeasible in key respects.

Richard Deakin, chief executive of air traffic management association, NATS, pointed out that four runways in the estuary would mean some approaches and departures being over London, compounding noise problems and conflicting with the flight paths of other airports, including Schipol.

There are other far more realistic solutions for increasing airport capacity. If £5 billion were spent on a Crossrail spur from Stansted to Stratford this would link Stansted to the City in 25 minutes and to the West End or Ebbsfleet in 35 minutes, with Heathrow less than an hour away. Stansted is currently operating at only half its potential capacity and therefore could greatly increase its number of flights without even needing a new runway in the short-term. Gatwick is now pushing for a second runway once its planning agreement which prevents this expires in 2019. Expansion at Gatwick and/or Stansted with one becoming a hub which competes with Heathrow would benefit Kent with better connections.

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MP welcomes Transport Select Committee report rejecting Thames Estuary airport

010220133960Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, has welcomed the decision by the Transport Select Committee to reject proposals to build a new hub airport in or around the Thames Estuary.

Responding to the news, Mark Reckless said:

“The Mayor of London and Foster & Partners are not the first the first to suggest building an airport in the Thames Estuary. The last Government did that with Cliffe airport. That was ruled out, not least on grounds of cost, and these latest reheated proposals lack feasibility just as their predecessors did.

Despite Boris’s gung-ho attitude, support for a Thames Estuary airport remains extremely limited. This substantive report by the Transport Select Committee, which drives a coach and horses through the proposals, follows hot on the heels of the London Assembly’s findings that a Thames Estuary airport is not a viable option.

By advocating the Thames Estuary airport Boris wanted to take the focus off Heathrow expansion, but by backing such an ill-advised, economically and environmentally unfeasible scheme he only succeeded in putting the focus back on Heathrow, although other options may make more sense.

I welcome the decision by the Transport Select Committee to reject a new hub airport in or around the Thames Estuary. It is a huge boost for the thousands of residents across Medway, particularly those living on the Hoo Peninsula, who are opposed to such proposals. However, it is important that we stay focused on our ultimate goal of seeing off these pie in the sky plans once and for all.”

Cllr Rodney Chambers, Leader of Medway Council, added:

“We welcome the news that, after months of detailed and rigorous study – which included commissioning research from independent aviation experts – the House of Commons Transport Select Committee has firmly rejected plans for a Thames Estuary airport.

This confirms what we’ve always known, and have campaigned loudly about – that the Thames Estuary airport is a non-starter.

The committee’s report says a Thames Estuary airport wouldn’t work because of the phenomenal cost to the public purse of building the transport infrastructure needed to get to it, as well as the devastating effect it would have on wildlife in the estuary – an area of international importance used by more than 300,000 migrating birds annually.

Medway Council, and its campaign partners have been saying exactly this as well as a number of other reasons why there should not be a Thames Estuary airport since the pie in the sky scheme was first put forward by the Mayor of London in 2008.”

Launching the report of an inquiry which examined the UK Government’s Aviation Strategy, Louise Ellman, Chair of the House of Commons’ Transport Committee said:

“We looked closely at the three main options by which the UK could increase its hub airport capacity. Research we commissioned made plain that building an entirely new hub airport east of London could not be done without huge public investment in new ground transport infrastructure. Evidence to our inquiry also showed a substantial potential impact on wildlife habitat in the Thames estuary.

The viability of an estuary hub airport would also require the closure of Heathrow – a course of action that would have unacceptable consequences for individuals, businesses in the vicinity of the existing airport and the local economy.”

Download the full report – Click Here

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MP hails overwhelming response to No Estuary Airport campaign

250320134205Mark Reckless MP is considering extending his ‘No Estuary Airport’ campaign to the whole of the Rochester and Strood constituency following an overwhelming response from residents on the Hoo Peninsula.

Over 3,700 residents have so far returned their ballot out of around 10,000 that were initially sent out. The online petition on Mark’s website has also garnered significant outside support, ranging geographically from Rainham to Twickenham to Surrey.

Over 95% of those who have responded so far oppose the proposals for an airport in or around the Thames Estuary.

Mark will now be leading teams of volunteers going door to door with a petition across much of the Hoo Peninsula calling on households who have yet to return their ballot.

Speaking of the campaign success, Mark Reckless MP said:

“I have been overwhelmed by the response to my ‘No Estuary Airport’ ballot. Local councillors, activists and residents have been working their socks off to get the ballot paper to every household on the Hoo Peninsula and the interim result speaks for itself – with over 95% of Hoo Peninsula residents clearly saying that they oppose these pie in the sky proposals.

Estimates of the cost of building a new airport in the Thames Estuary range from £70-100 billion, which could add £50 to the cost of every plane ticket sold. The airlines don’t want it, residents in West London who would lose their jobs don’t want it, and now we can conclusively say that residents on the Hoo Peninsula, those who would be most impacted, don’t want it.

I am grateful to everyone who has given their time to deliver the ballots, and I would like to thank all of the residents who have responded to date. I am hopeful that we can now expand my No Estuary Airport campaign to the rest of the Rochester and Strood constituency. If anyone would like to make a donation to help me do so, please get in touch.”

Cllr Chris Buckwell, Chairman of St James Isle of Grain Parish Council, added:

‘The number of people who have completed and returned the voting forms about the airport consultation exceeds the number of people who went in person to vote in the Police & Crime Commissioner elections last November.

I think that’s a very significant achievement and all credit to Mark Reckless and all in the team who have helped. It has been a great exercise and the most responsive that I think has been had across the Medway towns, other than an ordinary election, for many, many years’

Cllr Chris Irvine, Medway Councillor for Peninsula Ward, said:

‘The response which we’ve received to Mark’s ‘No Estuary Airport’ campaign has been quite staggering, far exceeding the turnout in last Novembers PCC elections. I’d like to thank everybody who has helped with the campaign to date. It is vital that we keep saying it loud and clear – No Estuary Airport!’

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At Last! Victory for our Rail Fare Campaign

MPs Mark Reckless and Tracey Crouch in ChathamMark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, has welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister earlier today that rail fare increases for 2013 are to be capped at RPI+1%.

Hailing this major victory for hard-pressed commuters, Mark Reckless said:

At last after years of campaigning, particularly with Tracey Crouch MP, both in public and equally importantly by lobbying ministers in private, we have ended Labour’s disgraceful policy of increasing Southeastern rail fares by 3% over inflation annually.

By exposing the effect it had when Labour used our commuters as guinea pigs for RPI +3% we have succeeded in protecting commuters nationally.

I would like to thank Radio 4 for the support which they gave me with the campaign, including coming to Grain at 6am and then Strood to meet commuters getting the coach to London because they could not afford the train.

A victory for long-suffering Southeastern commuters with whom I will now work to stop even 1% above inflation increases as soon as we possibly can.

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Other Options Are All Better Than An Estuary Airport

The Mayor of London calls a third runway at Heathrow “simply mad” but the only truly mad option in this debate is the Mayor’s own pie in the sky proposal for a Thames Estuary Airport.  By pushing that, as his alternative to Heathrow expansion, Boris played into the hands of the vested interests of BA and BAA and a richly resourced lobbying campaign for Heathrow expansion.

I am delighted that we have held off the prospect of consultation on options including an estuary airport yet excluding Heathrow. I warned the Prime Minister that such a consultation could be overturned by the courts, as I helped overturn the Labour government’s 2003 consultation including ‘Cliffe’ airport yet excluding Gatwick. Justine Greening as Transport Secretary was understandably concerned to protect her constituents in Putney under the Heathrow flight-path, but the new transport team can fairly assess all options on their merits.

The reality is that adding a runway to an airport, such as Heathrow, with existing infrastructure will always be incomparably easier, faster and cheaper than building a new airport, and it is ridiculous for Boris to suggest otherwise. Indeed, the ‘research’ which he commissioned, concluding that a new airport in the Thames Estuary would take only two year longer to build than a third runway at Heathrow, was so manifestly absurd that it was not taken seriously.  Foster+ Partners’ claim that a new airport could be built in the estuary for £23 billion is similarly incredible, even before you consider they want airlines using Heathrow to pay for it, and that infrastructure for the airport is on top, and they want taxpayers to pay for that!

If the Mayor of London is serious about stopping Heathrow expansion, he needs to get back in the debate, drop his pie in the sky estuary airport proposals, and look at other serious options for increasing aviation capacity for the South-East of England, such as:

Birmingham could take 25 million more passengers, even without a second runway for which they are safeguarding land. Their existing runway is currently being extended to take the largest fully-laden jets to allow a large range of services to Asia and the Americas. The airport is in the middle of the national motorway network and is easily reached by train from Kent on HS1 and then via Euston, as a delegation from Medway and Kent councils discovered when we visited last week. When HS2 is built, Birmingham Airport will be only just over half an hour from Heathrow, 40 minutes from Euston and 57 minutes from Ebbsfleet.

Stansted could take 17 million more passengers (and took 6 million more than now in 2007) but is held back by poor transport connections. For £3-4 billion (rather than £50-80 billion for an estuary airport) we could build a Crossrail spur from Stratford to Stansted allowing transfer from the airport to the City in 23 minutes, and to the West End or Ebbsfleet in half an hour. The Coalition could agree this rail investment now, leaving any decisions to build second of third runways, for which there would be plenty of space, until existing capacity is properly used.

Gatwick has a real window of opportunity now to come off the fence and push for a second runway, which their planning agreement could allow from 2019. Gatwick could then be set free from price controls to compete with Heathrow and really build its business following recent success in attracting Asian airlines. We should also improve train links from Kent as well as London to Gatwick as the best option for supporting Kent travellers and our local economy.

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BBC discover coach commuters priced off rail

BBC Radio 4 has followed up my Today programme interview on Monday opposing rail fare hikes.

They report from Grain and Strood after I told them that many people had to get up at 5 or 6 in the morning to get the coach to London because they can’t afford the train.

The report highlights the increased numbers which have had to switch to usually slower coach travel after the last Labour government singled out Southeastern commuters as guinea pigs for an RPI+3% fares regime.

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Has Evan Davis any idea how much we pay to the EU?

Many listeners to the Today programme earlier will have heard presenter Evan Davis, previously a BBC economics correspondent, make the astonishing claim that, if the government borrowed to build social housing, this would “improve the national debt”.

Not quite as many will have heard my interview with him at 7.20am when he pretty much shouted me down for suggesting that we could avoid a hike in rail fares if we stopped:

a) putting benefits up by more than increases in wages for people in work; or
b) paying £19.2 billion a year to the EU.

Having shouted me down, Evan Davis then assured BBC listeners that leaving the EU would only fund a small decrease in rail fares.

For the record annual spending on rail fares on the latest available data was £6.6 billion. So, if we left the EU, the government could if it wanted make the train network completely free. Indeed it could also pay for every single train journey (£11 billion when we include the £4 billion or so of taxpayer funding), and have £8.5 billion left over.

I know that this is an issue on which Evan Davis has form, since earlier this month Radio 4 broadcast a debate on the EU chaired by Evan Davis in which I and others spoke against Sir Stephen Wall, previously Britian’s top EU civil servant.

Since we are the EU’s largest market, and they sell more to us than we do to them, it would obviously be in their interest to have a free trade agreement with the UK were we to leave the EU.

Nonetheless, since pro-EU commentators, who are so over-represented in BBC output, scaremonger that we could face a tariff wall outside the EU, I made the point that the total amount of such tariffs could not under WTO rules be more than between £5 billion and £6 billion.

I then observed that this was only a fraction of our budget contribution to the EU. Hence, in the highly unlikely event of the EU putting up a tariff wall against the UK, our government could if it wished redirect that fraction of our EU budget contribution to pay any tariffs faced by firms exporting from the UK, while still having a lot of cash previously sent to the EU left over.

But Evan Davis interrupted me, first to tell BBC listeners that £5-6 billion (in any event a top-end estimate) was not a fraction of the EU budget, and then – contradicting himself – that, even if it were, it would be “a very large fraction”.

For the record £5-6 billion is between a quarter and a third of the annual £19.2 billion which we now pay to the EU.

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Southeastern Timetable Consultation – Have Your Say

Mark Reckless is inviting commuters based in the Rochester and Strood constituency to have their say on the proposed changes to the Southeastern timetable which will come into effect on 10th December 2012.

Copies of the proposed timetables can be downloaded below.

Southeastern are proposing to make a number of changes on both the High Speed and Mainline/Metro services which may affect local commuters so it is important to ensure that everyone has their say.

Rail users can comment directly on the proposed changes via the Southeastern website – click here.

Alternatively, Mark would like to hear your views on the timetables, and on Southeastern’s performance generally. All submissions will be forwarded on to Southeastern’s management as part of the consultation. Please use the form below to submit your views but please note that Mark is only able to speak on behalf of commuters who reside in the Rochester and Strood constituency.

Timetables

Chatham line Monday to Friday

Chatham line Saturday

High Speed Monday to Friday

High Speed Saturday

Feedback Form

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