Greg, along with local councillors, visited the new Arriva depot in Tunbridge Wells to launch the new bus network which went live on Sunday 11 March.
"Many people rely on local buses to get to work, to visit friends and family and to go shopping so it's really important that we have reliable, regular bus services. Arriva has been listening closely to what customers want and has worked really hard to create a new network with improved routes. I'm delighted, for example, that the direct service between Tunbridge Wells, Paddock Wood and Maidstone has been restored. The number of buses to Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Knights Park, Showfields and Ramslye have also been increased which is great news. Arriva is to be commended for its commitment to the local community."
Oliver Monahan, Area Managing Director for Arriva Kent and Surrey, said:
"We were absolutely thrilled to have Greg visit our new depot and give us his thoughts on the network changes. The feedback of local councillors and our customers is not only important to the team here at Arriva, but is also the start of some brilliant service updates that we hope will really improve the passenger experience in the Tunbridge Wells area.
"We would like to thank Greg for attending today, it's great to have him on board in celebrating and promoting the improvements to local bus services."
Greg met two Arriva apprentices at its new bus depot in Tunbridge Wells during National Apprenticeship Week 2018.
"It was great to meet James Langran and Wayne Stanton to chat about their experiences as Arriva apprentices. They have had fantastic training and were both passionate about their work - it was a tonic to meet them. Arriva's apprenticeship scheme at the Tunbridge Wells depot is one of the best in the country and I am proud that we have such a good local employer investing in the next generation."
Greg visited the new pedestrian crossing in Major York's Road.
"Major York's Road divides the Common in two and has lacked a crossing. Many people who use the Common, as well as people who park their car in the fairground car-park, will find it a boon to be able to cross safely.
"The campaign to get this crossing built has been a long slog – John Barber in particular has been tenacious in his efforts to get the crossing built - so it's really great to see it finally in place and being used."
John Barber from the Friends of the Commons said:
"The Friends of the Commons thank everybody who supported the creation of this excellent crossing."
Stroke has recently made the headlines again as new figures published by Public Health England showed that more first-time strokes are occurring at an earlier age compared to a decade ago. The average age for men having a stroke fell from 71 to 68 years and for women, 75 to 73 years. This is a very worrying trend, especially when people are generally living longer and healthier lives.
Stroke is the leading cause of death and disability in the UK – there are around 32,000 stroke-related deaths in England each year and 3,000 patients are treated for stroke each year in Kent & Medway hospitals.
Successful treatment relies on speed – the shorter the time between the stroke and treatment, the greater the chance of reducing damage to brain tissue. The medical saying goes "time lost is brain lost".
The way local stroke services are currently organised is not fit for purpose. One in three stroke patients are not getting brain scans in the recommended time – within an hour after arriving at hospital - and half of patients are not getting clot busting drugs in the recommended time - within 2 hours of calling the ambulance.
This is clearly unacceptable and I have been pressing our local NHS to make improvements.
The problem is that specialist resources are stretched too thinly across six hospital sites. Only one hospital out of the six currently meets the national threshold of seeing 500 stroke patients a year.
A Kent & Medway Stroke Review has been completed and the resulting plans published to radically overhaul the service with the opening of three specialist stroke units across the county operating 24 hours a day, 365 day a year.
Apart from emergency treatment, the new stroke units would also provide specialist rehabilitation which is vitally important for patients' long-term recovery and transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – "mini-stroke" – clinics operating 7 days a week.
Establishing specialist stroke units is a model that has been successfully applied years ago, with great success, in other countries, and more recently in other parts of the UK, including London - where it is estimated that 100 lives a year have been saved since the changes were put into place.
Whilst the Kent & Medway proposals do not come without a cost - it will require a capital investment of up to £40m - in the long-term the overall cost of stroke services should reduce as patients will have a better outcome and won't need as much long-term care. It's in everyone's interests to upgrade our stroke service.
Five options have been put forward for a combination of the three possible sites which the local NHS think are deliverable - two include Tunbridge Wells Hospital and two Maidstone Hospital. The option which does not include any hospital in West Kent is, to my mind, the weakest of the five as travel times are longer as our catchment area extends well over the border into East Sussex.
Indeed, the best travel times are provided by the option which involves Medway Maritime, William Harvey and Tunbridge Wells hospitals so it is this one that I personally favour. This option also comes out top in terms of the quality of care assessment.
You can see all the options on the following website: www.kentandmedway.nhs.uk/stroke - the consultation ends on Friday 13 April.
We have a once in a life opportunity to transform stroke care in our county and it's important that we get it right. I urge you, therefore, to look at the proposals and make your views known.
Following the announcement that rail operator Southeastern has started operating a free Wi-Fi service on their trains, Greg said:
"I've been pushing Southeastern to install on-board Wi-Fi so this is great news. It's taken a bit longer than we all hoped, but I'm sure it will be a valuable service for both regular commuters."
The free Wi-Fi is currently available on around two-thirds of Southeastern trains, with the roll-out across the network expected to be completed by June 2018.
Tunbridge Wells MP, Greg Clark, has once again brought together MPs from across Kent and East Sussex in calling for the dualling of the rest of the A21.
In a letter to the Roads Minister, Jesse Norman MP, Greg and his Parliamentary colleagues for Bexhill & Battle, Hastings & Rye, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge & Malling have set out the compelling case for the dualling of the A21 from top to toe.
Safety, journey times, resilience and economic growth are all cited as evidence of the need to see what the MPs describe as their ambition to have "a modern dual carriageway which befits the main link between the M25 and south coast."
This comes on the back of the successful A21 campaign which saw the long-awaited dualling of the road between Tonbridge and Pembury, which was officially opened last year.
Commenting, Greg said, "We're at a really important stage in the campaign as the Government has been consulting on a plan, called the Road Investment Strategy, which informs which main roads will be upgraded between 2020 and 2025.
"Teamwork and tenacity secured success in our campaign to have the Tonbridge to Pembury stretch dualled, which benefits tens of thousands of people a day, and it's the same approach I am taking in pushing for the dualling of the section between the Blue Boys Roundabout and Lamberhurst, and then onto the rest of this important road."
"This joint letter demonstrates the unity amongst representatives along the whole route and makes clear the compelling case for this crucial upgrade."
Next month, the leaders of the European Union member states – including the United Kingdom – will meet to consider the latest stage of the negotiations on Britain's withdrawal from the EU.
It is an important meeting because it gives the opportunity, almost exactly one year before Brexit, to agree arrangements to make sure that people and businesses will not suffer an abrupt change in trading and working arrangements on the day we leave.
As both a local MP, and as Business Secretary in the Government, employers from small businesses to large manufacturers tell me that the certainty of a clear implementation period is the most important thing they need now to be able to operate with confidence in the next few months and years. A period of around two years from March 2019 would make sure that there were no sudden changes required, for which it would be difficult to plan in a matter of months. In fact, one of the reasons why it is so important, in my view and that of most businesses, that we reach agreement in March, is that there is from now a period of around three years of stability ahead – time for firms to plan for any changes they might need to make for the longer term.
Last week I wrote – along with the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, - to businesses across Britain to set out the approach that we will be seeking to agree.
The first element is stability during that period. There is no point businesses having to go through, in the space of two years, three different sets of rules whilst we are a member of the EU, during the implementation period, and following that period. That would cause unnecessary – and costly – disruption that would damage investment and jobs. So the terms of trade should remain as they are now.
The second is simplicity: every business – large or small, irrespective of their industry – should know that the certainty applies to them. It also means, for example, that the trading agreements that the EU has with other countries should continue to be available to British companies, even though we have left the EU.
The third is that people from other European countries should be clear that they can come and live and work in the UK during this period. Here in Tunbridge Wells unemployment is currently just 1.1%. Employers, including businesses, farmers and growers, and our local NHS, all tell me that it is often a struggle to recruit enough people to perform the work available, so it is important that we don't cut off the ability to employ people who come from our neighbouring countries.
These proposals have been warmly welcomed by business leaders and I hope that agreeing them in March will allow us to make progress with the next step, which is to agree the long-term relationship we will have with the European Union.
However we voted in the referendum , we all share a deep interest – along with our European neighbours – in ensuring that our future relationship is as strong and productive as it possibly can be. My job as Business Secretary in the Government gives me an important role to play in shaping that relationship and in the months ahead I will keep readers updated with the progress that I am determined to see made.
Greg was treated to an afternoon of song and dance when he visited Langton Green Primary School. The pupils have been studying rainforests and after their performances inspired by the animals and plants that live there, they talked to Greg about what they have learnt and asked him questions about what can be done to help protect this important natural resource.
Greg was delighted to draw the winning tickets for a raffle run by the Cook store in Tunbridge Wells for the Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre. The raffle made well over £1,000 for the charity.
"I want to thank the Tunbridge Wells Cook store for supporting the Pickering Centre so generously and everyone that bought a raffle ticket. The Centre provides amazing support for those suffering from cancer and their friends and families."
Greg was delighted to hear that a new outreach Post Office service will operate from Matfield Village Hall three times a week. The old Post Office that was located in InnStore closed at the end of March 2017 when the premises was converted into an office.
"Post Offices provide a vitally important service in rural villages so I have been pressing the Post Office to do everything it can to get a new service up and running in Matfield. I know the Parish Council and Matfield Village Hall Committee have both been working really hard to find a solution and it's great news for the village that they've been able to find a new location."
The new service will be open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am - 1pm in Matfield Village Hall.
Greg, along with local councillors, visited the new Arriva depot in Tunbridge Wells to launch the...
Greg met two Arriva apprentices at its new bus depot in Tunbridge Wells during National...
Greg visited the new pedestrian crossing in Major York's Road. Greg said: "Major York's Road...
Stroke has recently made the headlines again as new figures published by Public Health England...