Dilemma on return to commuting as Government appears unable to fund rail services

An article on the dilemma around returning to commuting and the contrast between Government calls to get back to the office and the reality of it being unable to fund as many rail services. And the climate emergency rather pointing to travelling a lot less?

Fewer trains into Waterloo? see previous post here

More traffic into Leatherhead from Bookham and other villages?

More pollution, more congestion?

Very slow progress and limited funding for better bus services or active travel improvements

(-concerns that TfL funded services like 465 bus may be reduced too when up for renewal – poor relationship between SCC and TfL acknowledged by SCC cabinet member)

SCC cannot afford to fund preparation of an active travel plan in Mole Valley district without MVDC funding it hasn’t budgeted for

Government requires a 5 year supply of new homes, and over 400 a year in Mole Valley to 2037 as part of its manifesto to build 300,000 homes a year…

(Many may need to be built in Bookham, and in town centres, on council owned land, and possibly in some villages including Headley where public transport is very limited and there are no pedestrian or cycle links into the towns. Effingham development will also impact Bookham…)

But Government not now able to invest in transport and infrastructure improvements?

So maybe we should still be working more from home or much more flexibly? Or just working locally where we can? Some may then choose to relocate further out or further north ?

Is that a win-win for the local environment, economy and our health & wellbeing?

And allows Councils to focus on local health, education, children’s and adult social services, and economic development?

Local politicians are though urging us to respond to South Western Railway’s engagement on a permanent timetable which would significantly reduce services into Waterloo from Leatherhead, Dorking, Epsom and Bookham.

Hot on the heels of Chris Grayling the Ashtead and Epsom MP (potentially Leatherhead from next election if boundary changes are confirmed) – see our earlier blogpost and Chris Grayling’s website, Cllr Paul Kennedy and the Mole Valley Lib Dems have launched a reasonably worded petition that you can sign ( and if you wish opt in or out of their email communications.)

The local Green Party have also been campaigning on related issues

Meanwhile Surrey County Council, hitherto a roads and vehicles focused highways authority now consulting on a radical new local transport plan (largely excluding railways but including cycling, walking and car clubs etc) although it is quite a long read and the questions not easy..

And some small gains – notably a new wider shared use path in Leatherhead from the station to the business parks and new housing ( long advocated by former Cllr Rosemary Dickson whose persistence also ensured better dialogue on access and facilities at the Leatherhead station and the attention of the Mole Valley MP)

A new crossing on the A246 at Groveside / Hawthorn junctions in Bookham, promoted by SCC Cllr Clare Curran and petitioners.

Plus demand response local minibus services initially linking QEF and Leatherhead Station but potentially wider.

Scope for the A24 shared use path to be linked up with Epsom ? And with luck some funding from a special allocation for restoring the A24 route down to Dorking as parts of it were designed as ‘active travel’ in the 1930s when this was last Transport Ministry policy…

What can you do ?

Read (you’ll need a while) and respond to SCC’s transport consultation.

Respond to South Western Railway on the reduction in services to Waterloo. Details here

Possibly sign the Lib Dems petition

Lobby the Mole Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford (good luck with that!) but if you’re in Ashtead/Epsom you know Mr Grayling is already on the case.

Contact local county and district councillors.

And if you are in discussions with employers about returning to the office in London or outer London, it might be a good time to talk.

Large local employers previously reliant on a significant inward commuter workforce eg Unum, KBR, CGI, Aviva, Exxon etc may also need to take note – possibly this might be a good time for those employees to consider relocating closer to Leatherhead / Mole Valley if they can and if not already planned…?

Restore Epsom and Mole Valley’s Rail Services to Build Back Better

Epsom stationSWR’s proposed off-peak services to Dorking & Bookham via Epsom would each be just one per hour
We, the undersigned, call on South Western Railway (SWR), Network Rail and the Government to:
a) restore SWR rail services via Epsom and Mole Valley to pre-pandemic levels as soon as conditions allow;
b) abandon proposals to make permanent cuts from December 2022 to SWR rail services via Epsom and Mole Valley; and
c) adopt a fairer and more joined-up approach to building back rail services via Epsom and Mole Valley.
We further call on all Surrey councils, residents, businesses and community groups to respond to the consultation by SWR, Network Rail and the Department for Transport, by expressing support for the aims of this petition, and opposition to these discriminatory cuts.
Click here for further background information

9 August 2021