Major works to start at London Waterloo

Major works to start at London Waterloo

From 5 to 28 August platforms 1-10 at London Waterloo, the UK’s busiest station, will be closed so work can start to extend platforms for longer trains.

This is part of the upgrade plans that South West Trains spoke about during my public meeting on rail travel from Worcester Park station last year.

Although the number of passengers travelling in August is lower than other times of the year, passengers should still expect:

  • Severe disruption
  • Extremely busy trains
  • Queues at stations

South West Trains have advised that if you are able to avoid travelling on this route, either by using alternative options, working from home or taking annual leave, you should consider doing so.

If you will be travelling during this time, you are strongly advised to plan ahead and avoid the following times:

Morning

  • Vauxhall: 7.30am – 9.00am
  • Clapham Junction:  6.45am – 9.30am
  • Surbiton:  7.30am – 8.30am
  • Wimbledon:  7.30am – 9.00am

Evening

  • London Waterloo:  5.00pm – 6.45pm
  • Vauxhall:  5.00pm – 6.30pm
  • Clapham Junction:  5.00pm – 7.30pm
  • Wimbledon:  5.00pm – 7.00pm

Passengers are also strongly advised to avoid changing trains at Wimbledon, Vauxhall and Clapham Junction as queuing and one-way systems will be in place.

For more detailed information; including ticket acceptance options for other routes, timetables, advice and a regularly updated FAQ, please click here.

You can also see more about the upgrade plans in the video below.

 

Sutton Council responds to questions about fire safety

Sutton Council responds to questions about fire safety

Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, I wrote to Sutton Council regarding fire safety in tall buildings in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park. Below are the questions I asked and the answers I received.

  1. Can you please clarify exactly how and why the Council, SHP and the London Fire Brigade believe Chaucer House to be safe despite a failure in the fire safety test of its cladding?

We have set this out in the joint letter from the Council, SHP and London Fire Brigade delivered to all Chaucer House residents on Thursday evening which provides reassurance about fire safety. We also held a well-attended drop-in session on Thursday afternoon with Chaucer residents to provide additional detail and answer specific concerns of residents.

The Fire Brigade have completed a number of audit checks at Chaucer House over the last fortnight and are satisfied that the fire safety arrangements in place are effective. In addition to the modern fire detection system, comprising hard wired smoke alarms in every room, heat detectors in every kitchen and a communal fire alarm, there is also a sprinkler system in every room and in the former bin chambers. Each flat has a fire safe front entrance door and frame and the same is present throughout the communal areas. The block also has a staircase and means of escape at each end of the building.

There are fire stops between floors and between the flats and the cladding system used received Building Research Establishment approval as meeting the Building Regulations. The specific tests that DCLG organised to test combustibility of the inner core have resulted in 100% failure to date and cannot be taken as evidence that a block is unsafe as it is the totality of the fire safety cladding and related arrangements that is relevant.

  1. What, if any, action is going to be taken to add further fire safety measures in Chaucer House?

We are ensuring that a diligent approach to fire safety remains in place at all times and on our  high-rise blocks in particular. The following additional measures have been taken to achieve this and to reassure residents:

  • Independent Fire Risk Assessments for Chaucer and Balaam have been conducted in the last two months
  • Four Fire Brigade audits have been completed at Chaucer and Balaam in the last fortnight
  • A 24/7 fire patrol has been instituted at Chaucer and Balaam to ensure that the fire safety systems are all operating as designed through the night and communal areas and means of escape are kept clear of combustible materials and potential obstructions etc.
  • We are offering Home Fire Safety Visits by the Fire Brigade to all SHP residents
  • SHP are conducting home visits to all residents at Chaucer and Balaam to:
  • Checking and verifying who is living there and updating our records
  • Providing and talking the household through the latest fire safety advice including knowing their evacuation route(s), checking the operation of self-closing internal doors and heeding fire brigade advice
  • Keeping the communal parts of the blocks free of belongings and rubbish
  • Provision of smoke alarms and kitchen heat alarms for residents
  • Strongly recommending that they that they have a Home Fire Safety Visit
  • Identifying tenants who may be at risk of hoarding and referring them for immediate help and support to address this
  • Identifying residents who have limited mobility or other relevant vulnerability and assessing their risk in the event of a fire and developing, where appropriate a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan. The Fire Brigade provide an ‘Assisted Living Technology Handbook’ which is helpful in these cases
  • We are also planning to offer residents of Chaucer and Balaam access to electrical testing of home appliances and to purchase and give out fire extinguishers and fire blankets and training in how to use these correctly
  1. When does the Council believe the cladding on Balaam House will have been completely tested?

We have taken samples of the Balaam cladding and provided these to DCLG but DCLG have declined to test steel clad buildings at the moment. SHP has commissioned fire safety experts to conduct a forensic and holistic assessment of fire safety at Chaucer and Balaam and their initial findings are expected in four weeks.

  1. Have all relevant alarms and automated fire response systems such as sprinklers been tested?

There is a continuous testing programme in place for all fire detection and suppression systems.

  1. Has a review of fire safety been done of all SHP properties, particularly flats?

All of the flatted properties managed by SHP receive formal fire risk assessments undertaken by an independent consultant.  These are carried out annually for sheltered schemes, Balaam House, Chaucer House and our other taller blocks and every 3 years for other flatted properties.

Flatted properties with annual Fire Risk Assessments are also subject to quarterly fire safety inspections by trained SHP staff to verify that the appropriate measures are working effectively.  Flatted properties with 3 yearly Fire Risk inspections are subject to 6 monthly fire safety inspections.

  1. Is a sprinkler system going to be installed in Balaam House? If so, when and if not, why not?

SHP are commissioning the design of a suitable sprinkler system for Balaam House and have asked the experts conducting the forensic review to make recommendations on this.

  1. Has the Council/SHP made contact with other housing associations or private landlords responsible for other tall buildings in Sutton whether clad or not, such as Aspects, 2 and 4 Sutton Park Road, Bank House, 9 Sutton Court Road, 11 Sutton Court Road, Leith Towers, Dunsfold Court, Alford Court and Northumberland House (formerly Sutherland House), to check their fire safety arrangements? If not, will the Council undertake this?

Council officers are in the process of contacting all housing associations who may have high rise stock in the borough to ascertain if there are any fire safety issues regarding cladding etc.  To date we have received reassurances from all but three (who are being chased today).  Of those who have responded, only three have high rise blocks and none of these have the ACM cladding that was present at Grenfell Tower.

The situation is not as straightforward with privately owned blocks. We have seen a letter sent by the Permanent Secretary at the DCLG  to private sector bodies encouraging owners and managers to arrange checks on their buildings. Although locals authorities receive notification of certification of works as compliant with Building Regulations from Approved Inspectors and we maintain a database of such notifications these do not detail necessarily the works carried out .  We are liaising with our local Fire Brigade about the visual inspections that they are carrying out of 242 buildings higher than four storeys and will discuss follow up action in cases where fire risks, cladding related or not, have been identified.

  1. Has the Council been in touch with the local Fire Brigade to discuss their ability to tackle fires in tall buildings?

SHP have been working very closely with the local Fire Brigade and regularly discuss their approach to fighting fires in taller buildings. All of the crew members in the Sutton and Merton Fire Brigades are visiting Chaucer House to familiarize themselves with the scissor design of the flats and the specific fire safety procedures and layout so they are able to respond effectively and appropriately to any emergency. Their callout response times are excellent and a for a fire in a high-rise property, the Brigade now sends five fire engines and an aerial platform.

  1. Have residents in tall buildings been given the most up to date advice on fire safety?

The latest fire safety information has been sent to residents in Chaucer and Balaam and SHP are keeping them fully informed about what we are doing to enhance fire safety including individual visits.  

On June 15th, SHP door knocked all properties and discussed fire safety with residents.  There have been joint press releases between the Council, SHP and the FB and SHP have updated information on their website.  SHP are putting together a FAQ based on questions from residents at the drop in sessions, via phone calls and during face to face home visits.

  1. Have escape routes been identified in tall buildings, such as fire escape staircases, and how long are they likely to provide safe passage out of the building in the event of a fire? How many are there in each building?

This forms part of the fire safety assessment undertaken at all blocks and as the design features of each block vary, a general response that is applicable to all is not possible. All residents are provided with this information and encouraged to know their means of escape from the block in the event of a fire. The core principle that applies is that of compartmentation, so that the fire is contained within the property where it arises and the means of escape is kept sterile and free of combustible material so that safe passage out of the building can be undertaken.

  1. Where residents are unable to escape, how long is a flat likely to remain safe whilst they await rescue? Can you confirm that there are sufficient fire breaks in each block, such as fire doors in common areas in contrast to those missing in the buildings in Camden?

Properties are designed to contain a fire for sufficient time to allow the Fire Brigade to reach anyone that needs to be evacuated. Fire breaks are in place for each block and the forensic review commissioned  will be checking on and reporting on this, so that any deficiencies found can be remedied.

  1. How many householders in each building are SHP tenants and how many are private owners?

There are 6 leaseholders in Chaucer and 9 leaseholder in Balaam House.

Have your say on Helicopter noise

Have your say on Helicopter noise

Every summer I receive complaints from residents about Helicopter noise and this summer has been no exception.

Sutton is on a flight path between two heliports, which causes some residents significant disruption when trying to enjoy their gardens in the summer months. I always raise these complaints with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and London Heliport.

I am pleased to hear that the CAA is now seeking views on the impact of Helicopter noise via an online survey here.

I would strongly urge everyone who has experienced disturbances as a result of Helicopter noise to have their say.

Discussing the A217/A232 crossroads with TfL

Discussing the A217/A232 crossroads with TfL

On Monday I met with Transport for London (TfL) along with the local Conservative London Assembly Member, Steve O’Connell, to discuss the A217/A232 crossroads.

I am often contacted by residents who have witnessed, or even been involved in, near misses or scrapes when turning right from Cheam Road or High Street onto the A217. This is caused by confusion as to whether cars should cross on the inside or outside of each other. In contrast, when you turn right from the A217 onto the A232, the lights are phased to there is no oncoming traffic, allowing cars to turn safely without obstruction.

We discussed potential scenarios for resolving this problem, such as phasing the lights in the other direction, putting new signage on the traffic lights at Cheam Road and High Street demonstrating how to turn at this junction, or removing the white lines that guide cars turning right from the A217 onto the A232, which are arguably unnecessary as the phased lights do this job anyway, and replacing them with guiding lines to assist drivers turning right onto the A217.

TfL has agreed to go away and look at these options and feed back to myself and Steve O’Connell. We will be sure to keep residents updated.

Major step forward in securing healthcare in Sutton

Major step forward in securing healthcare in Sutton

Securing the long-term future of healthcare in Sutton has always been my top priority as your MP. I am pleased that the Epsom & St Helier NHS Trust are seeking opinions from Sutton residents about the future of healthcare in the borough, making it clear that St Helier hospital will stay open.

The staff at St Helier hospital provide great care, but many of the buildings themselves are no longer fit for purpose. Over 40% of the estate is functionally unusable to deliver healthcare.

Now the Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust has called for views on the future of its buildings at Epsom, Sutton and St Helier Hospitals. The Trust is making the case for £400 million of investment to replace the current buildings with new, modern, purpose-built facilities, but they want to hear from you about how they go about this.

Both Epsom and St Helier Hospitals will remain open and continue to provide us all with the great care we have come to expect, but there are three possible scenarios for a new acute facility:
1. A new facility at Epsom Hospital,
2. A new facility at St Helier Hospital,
3. A new facility at Sutton Hospital working in partnership with the Royal Marsden.

For the first time in years we have a proposal from the NHS which doesn’t risk Sutton residents having to travel to St George’s in Tooting for A&E and maternity services, instead protecting them within the area already covered by the Trust.

This is only the start of a very long process, but regardless of the outcome, the good news is that St Helier is going nowhere as the Health Secretary confirmed when he visited the hospital a before the General Election. In addition, 100% of the services currently provided by the Trust, including A&E and Maternity services, will continue to be provided locally.

If we are going to be successful we need everyone to get involved. To find out more and to have your say, visit the Trust’s website here.

Second round of consultation on Southern and Thameslink timetable

Second round of consultation on Southern and Thameslink timetable

Last year, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the parent company of Southern and Thameslink, launched a consultation which sets out proposed changes to the timetable which will be operated by GTR in 2018.

The second phase of their consultation on the 2018 timetable has now started. GTR’s plans are designed to provide more reliable services, with more capacity for passengers.

Feedback from the first part of the consultation last autumn has been taken on board where possible and detailed timetables are now available to comment on.

The information can be found at www.transformingrail.com.  At this link you’ll be able to view timetables, search times by station, and there are summary factsheets available by area.

Paper copies of the documents are available on request by writing to:
GTR Timetable Consultation
c/o East Side Offices
London Kings Cross Station
N1C 4AP

The consultation into the weekday timetables runs until 5pm on Thursday 27 July 2017. Weekend timetables will be shared later in the year.

Make sure you have your say on these changes. I remain committed to improving rail services in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park, by pushing for a resolution to the dispute with the Unions, getting the much needed infrastructure, rolling stock and new drivers to improve the current service, and then breaking up the overly large franchise.