The NHS is continuing to look at the future of both Epsom and St Helier Hospitals, though it is a long way away from taking any definitive decisions. The Trust is continuing to push for the construction of a new hospital at Sutton, though if there is to be a new hospital built to replace most of the services at St Helier and some of those at Epsom, it is some way in the future. I have not yet heard any indications from the NHS centrally that such a new build is approaching the top of their priority list, and the Epsom and St Helier Trust continues to perform better than many other Trusts. But I am keeping a careful eye on things and will let you know if there are any significant developments.
As you will know, the Trust is also trying to sell off part of the Epsom Hospital site which it says is surplus to requirements. I have been arguing that if there is to be a sale, it should be for a health or social care purpose. The former Chairman of the Hospital, Sir Adrian White has put together a consortium to offer to build an elderly care centre on the site. I am pushing the NHS to take this seriously as I believe it would be an asset to the area.
Train services and SWR
Many commuters (including me) are continuing to face problems on South Western Railway. There have been far too many broken points and signals in recent weeks, and I have held meetings with the new boss of Network Rail, which runs the tracks, to try to get the issue properly addressed.
There are some inbuilt problems with the way the SWR network is working at the moment, and earlier this summer I commissioned a senior rail figure, Sir Michael Holden, to review the way in which SWR and Network Rail operate together on this network, and he has identified a number of improvements to the way the railway should work. These are now starting to be implemented.
One of the biggest issues is about the capacity of the network to cope. At peak times there are 19 trains an hour going through Wimbledon on our suburban line into London, which makes it as busy a railway as any in the world. That makes the timetable is so tight that a late running train can throw the whole timetable out of kilter. That is why sometimes trains run fast to try to keep the timetable reasonably in shape, though that only happens if there is an alternative close behind.
But there are also deeper problems with the way the railway is working, and in my national role I have started a process that will lead to a comprehensive reform of the way that rail works in this country.