Absolute chaos for so many rail users
I've just learned this week that Network Rail is planning to close the Brighton Mainline between Three Bridges and Lewes, as well as Three Bridges to Brighton from the October 20 - 28 and then again from February 16 - 24.
This means there will be no services running between Eastbourne and London on those dates. They’ll be laying on bus replacements from Lewes but lengthy queues are expected. The last sentence was in the briefing Network Rail sent to me and frankly reaches a height of such understatement, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry! These closures for engineering works are going to cause absolute chaos for the many people in Eastbourne and across the South East who rely on the rail network to commute into work or school every day.To add such an indefinite amount of time onto people’s journeys over the course of three months is dreadful, particularly as so many residents have already suffered the horror of the timetable changes. While I understand that essential maintenance work needs to be carried out, I have written to Network Rail asking why it cannot be done over several weekends and evenings when the line is much quieter. I’m also concerned the information available for commuters has so far been almost non-existent so have requested Network Rail’s chief executive, Andrew Haines, to ensure there will be plenty of info going out to passengers, and that they work better with Southern to begin notifying customers so they have time to prepare. On top of the damning failure at recently trying to implement the new timetable, Network Rail is now planning to compound the misery for you, the unfortunate passengers. Not a brilliant look to be honest.It was also announced the other day that the government was delaying the implementation of a ban on cold calling by companies selling pension products and were going out to consultation instead. During debates on the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, I and my colleague in the House of Lords, John Sharkey, campaigned hard to secure the commitment from Treasury Minister, John Glen, to “ban pensions cold calling quickly.” A proposed ban also had broad cross-party support, including from the Work and Pensions Select Committee. It’s urgently needed to protect the most vulnerable in our society from harassment and deception from dubious telephone cold-calling company’s. The Government had said they were committed to bringing in the ban as soon as possible but I now fear the murky characters who use cold-calling to target vulnerable pensioners have exerted pressure on the government to scrap a desperately-needed law change. Their promise is sounding increasingly hollow as vulnerable people will continue to be defrauded the longer a law-change is delayed.I had the enjoyment of attending the annual Gorringe Road allotment awards recently. It’s always a delight not least as each time I visit I’m reminded that our local borough council has one of the most proactive allotment schemes across the whole of the South of England. Over 1,100 allotments at a number of sites manned by enthusiastic volunteers passionate about what they grow. Well done Eastbourne Borough Council, and well done all the allotment holders. A great British tradition which remains as strong as ever across the whole of Eastbourne, and rightly so. Popped into DGH a few days ago to meet the housekeeping and catering departments, and absolutely fascinating it was. The scale alone is astonishing - 37,000 meals a month provided by the kitchen, and the hundred plus cleaning team keep a massive 75,000 square metres spotless every day. It was good to meet the staff to thank them personally. These fine people play as important a role in maintaining our health and wellbeing when we’re in the DGH as the clinical and administrative staff, so it was a privilege for me to be able to tell them just how much we all appreciate what they do.A brilliant local company called Happyjacks Soft Play, who I’ve known for a few years, put on their annual family picnic fundraiser for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice this week at the Sports Park on Cross Levels Way. It was packed to the rafters with happy parents and their excited children making the most of the day. All in a great cause. Wonderful atmosphere and a real joy for me to be there to support. The owner, Jaki, and her team are a perfect example of Eastbourne’s community spirit; they do an awful lot for our town. Nice people doing good. Thanks Jax, always a pleasure. That’s it folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around.