I am writing to you with an update about the Covid pandemic and also about some other local issues.
Covid Pandemic Update
You will be aware that the emergence of the new variant has led to the introduction of new rules and guidance this week.
Within our area, the principal change is that there is now a legal requirement to wear masks on public transport and in shops.
For those of you planning to travel over the coming weeks, there are restrictions on travel to countries in Southern Africa, and also a requirement to take a PCR test rather than the simpler Lateral Flow test within two days of your return.
Full details can be found here
For information about the rules that apply in other countries that may be changing their rules, the best place to look is the Foreign Office website
Coronavirus (COVID-19) booster vaccine
The Government is also now accelerating the booster programme for Covid vaccination. More details will be published in the coming days, but the latest information is here
I am pushing for more vaccination centres to be made available for our area, as I think more are going to be needed if the rest of the booster programme is to be delivered quickly.
I have been monitoring carefully the situation on South Western Railway, where a combination of the timetable reduction and trains often running with fewer carriages than before has created significant overcrowding. This latter issue has arisen because most of the trains are about to be scrapped and replaced by new ones, and so are in their final days of use. I met the Chief Executive of one of the two parent companies last week, and the Rail Minister and the SWR Chief Executive today to complain about the situation and ask for improvements. In particular I have asked them to make more carriages available for the Epsom line and also to make us a greater priority for the new trains that are due next year.
I have also asked both the Rail Minister and Southern to increase the number of London Bridge services so that more people from the Epsom area can use that route to get into the City instead.
Unfortunately I have also just been notified that for people travelling from Tattenham Corner, there will now be a return to the shuttle service to Purley over the period from 12th December until January 4th. The latter part of this period of suspension of the through services is because London Victoria station is partially closed for major engineering works. However I have protested about the suspension so far ahead of Christmas. The company says that this is because of staff sickness and absences, which I do not believe is a justifiable reason for a return to the limited services in the summer.
The Chalk Pit Site Epsom
For those of you affected by the situation at the Chalk Pit in Epsom, there was a meeting last week involving local residents, the three agencies involved in different aspects of the regulation of the site, the Environment Agency, Surrey County Council and Epsom and Ewell, together with myself and some local councillors. I and others are continuing to put as much pressure as possible onto all three agencies to use all the powers at their disposal to rein back the use of the site. The Environment Agency has also carried out an internal review of how it has handled the problem, which in my view has been entirely inadequate. I am hoping that this may lead to a strengthened enforcement approach from their team.
Kiln Lane/A24 Junction Epsom
A number of you have raised with me the problems at the junction of Kiln Lane and the A24 in Epsom. I have asked Surrey to deal with this, and they tell me that the reason for the problem is that when the carriageway was resurfaced it unavoidably destroyed many of the traffic signal vehicle detectors. These are loops of wire, slot-cut into the carriageway surface on the approaches to the traffic signals which detect vehicles and register demands for vehicles approaching the junction. These are due to be repaired shortly.
The Epsom and Ewell Youth Hub
If you have members of your family or young people that you know under the age of 24 who are struggling to get their careers going or find the right job, a new centre has opened in the Ashley Centre in Epsom which can help. The Epsom and Ewell Youth Hub will work directly with employers and partners to create opportunities for those young people who have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is in the centre of the Ashley Centre opposite Boots. Just drop in.
The Horton Epsom
Epsom’s new community centre, The Horton, which has been established in the refurbished Chapel in Haven Way on the old Horton Hospital site is now approaching completion, and its first events will be held over the Christmas period. If you are interested in seeing what has been done and watching their first public event, then a brand new family show, The Elf Factory, commissioned especially for The Horton, will run on selected dates between 19th - 29th December. It is being performed by Epsom-based circus theatre company Hikapee. They have toured internationally but never performed in their home town.
Tickets are being sold via the Horton website, thehortonepsom.org
Thank you to all NHS Staff
Finally I wanted to thank the NHS staff who are continuing to deal with enormous pressures this winter. I am very grateful to you all.
With best wishes