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Fishguard’s railway is a ‘major disappointment’

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Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.57.50FISHGUARD has been branded the region’s worst rail performer due to its measly 20 % increase in passengers despite the millions of pounds in renovations and additions which have been invested in the station.

Official statistics from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) have been analysed by Transport Consultant John Davies, who stated that the 21% increase in rail passengers at Fishguard and Goodwick station is a “major disappointment” due to the Welsh Government’s fight to fund the station’s additional train services.

Despite several Welsh stations seeing passenger growth of more than 200%, Mr Davies also suggested that there should be more improvements along the South Wales main lines due to the relatively small passenger growth in those areas.

He said that the 110 % growth along the Pembroke Dock line reflected the popularity of the twohourly service which was introduced in the station in 1998.

Analysis of the CBT’s recent online map of station usage shows that both the Fishguard Harbour and Fishguard and Goodwick stations have been seen to see-saw between a decrease and a 50-75 % increase in popularity since 1997.

Fishguard and Goodwick station was closed by British Railways when local services between Fishguard and Clarbeston Road were withdrawn on April 6, 1964.

Following the closure of normal passenger trains, the station remained in use for a few more months for workmen’s trains to the Royal Navy Armaments Depot in Trecwn.

Between June 18 1965 and September 18 1980, the station became the terminus of a seasonal motorail service from London. Early photographs of the station show the station building to be considerably shorter than it is today, due to the extension added for the unloading of motorail cars from the train.

The station was also used temporarily in the June of 1982, whilst the railway lines at the Fishguard Harbour station were being moved and re-laid. High speed train services ran through the station until the early 1990s, but services were ceased in 1994.

The reopening of Fishguard and Goodwick station as a railbus interchange was considered by Pembrokeshire County Council for a number of years.

In March 2011, it was announced by Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones of the Welsh Assembly Government that they would provide a subsidy which would allow for an increase in train frequency at the Fishguard and Goodwick station in September 2011 from two trains per day to seven, a service which they wanted to be trialled for three years.

This announcement from the Welsh Assembly prompted a wider governmental search for the railway’s funding which was eventually successfully found, leading to an announcement that the station would then re-open in March 2012.

The re-opening work cost £325,000, which including the lowering and realigning of the old tracks by Network Rail, as well as the clearing of the old derelict timber station building. The Welsh Government spent approximately £1.4m funding five extra trains which run Monday to Saturday.

The North Pembrokeshire Transport Forum (NPTF) campaigned for a number for years for a better stations and improved services. They brought up the fact that the parking at the old station was expensive and would possible deter people from using the rail service.

Hatti Woakes, Secretary of the NPTF, said of Fishguard: “It has the potential to be a hub for so many things – walkers, cyclists, buses – the only thing missing was a decent train service. This is the last piece of the jigsaw, it is wonderful.

“We’re now getting people communing to Carmarthen, which we have never had before. One B&B owners says her business has doubled and the people who stay with her think that the new services are wonderful.

“We feel we’re now linked up with the rest of the world.” The Welsh Government said that the overall positive figures around Wales indicate that its aim of modernising the Welsh rail infrastructure seems to be working well.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “Our significant investment in this area over a number of years has resulted in growing demand for rail services.”

“We intend to further build on this success when we take over full responsibility for the Wales and Borders rail franchise in 2018. This will give us greater ability to specify services to meet passenger needs across the full franchise area.”

An Arriva Trains Wales spokesperson said: “The healthy growth in passenger figures reflects the continuing popularity of rail travel across our network. Our own records indicate that the growth of overall passenger journeys since the start of the franchise in 2003 has been in excess of 60%.

“However, our franchise was designed for zero passenger growth and a limited fixed fleet for the entirety of its 15-year duration. In partnership with the Welsh Government and the Department for Transport, we have responded to these increases in customer demand.”

Recently, based on figures from the Office of Rail and Road, Arriva Train Wales came thirteenth in a poll of the top twenty significantly late train companies, which could perhaps deter people from using the service.

Between July and September 2015, Arriva had a score of 0.23%, which means that an average of two trains a day are considerably late, arriving between 30 minutes and 119 minutes behind their intended arrival time.

However, Wales’ only train station with falling numbers of passengers was the Conwy Valley line, whose performance had reduced by 40%. Mr Davies indicated that this was due to resulting flood damage and also the introduction of a competing bus service in the area.

The best performer in Wales was Gowerton train station near Swansea, in which there was a 2,100% increase in passengers, perhaps due to the Welsh Government funding a second track and full modernisation of the station back in 2013.

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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