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Bidder drops out of rail franchise race



On track: Tender process continues as another bidder withdraws

ONE of the bidders for the Wales and Borders rail franchise has withdrawn from the process.

Abellio Rail Cymru (ARC) was originally in partnership with stricken construction and services giant Carillion.

When Carillion entered liquidation, Transport for Wales asked ARC to provide a proposal which demonstrated that ARC could still deliver the Final Tender without changing essential elements of it.

The liquidator has since been in discussion with a number of parties to sell Carillion Rail and to secure jobs, and it was possible that through this process, ARC could have secured the relevant capability.

However, ARC’s hopes to acquire the franchise were ended by the purchase of Carillion’s rail operations by a member of rival consortium bidding for the rail franchise.

Whilst this has safeguarded a number of jobs in Carillion Rail, it left ARC unable to secure the capability it would need to proceed.

As a result, on the evening of Thursday, February 22, ARC informed Transport for Wales of its intention to withdraw from the process.

Commenting on ARC’s withdrawal from the tender process, Economy Secretary Ken Skates said: “I want to express my thanks to the ARC team for their hard work during the process. It is unfortunate that, having invested significant time, effort and money into the process that they should be a further victim of the liquidation of Carillion.

“We have two strong bidders remaining in the process and remain on target to award this exciting contract in May 2018 and to transform rail services in Wales and borders from October 2018.”

Commenting, Russell George AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Economy and Transport, said: “It’s very concerning to see yet another major bidder pull out of the bidding at this late stage.

“We need absolute assurance from Welsh Government that the remaining two bidders are sufficiently able to deliver on the franchise’s objectives and are not also vulnerable to Carillion’s collapse.

“Any support required by the remaining bidders should be provided by Ministers so that they remain on track to awarding this contract in May.”

Of four original tenders, only two remain for the new rail franchise. Current operator Arriva Trains Wales withdrew its interest in October.


New fund for tourism



Exploring more of Wales: The little big country

A €2M project to encourage more visitors to explore lesser known areas of Ireland and Wales has been announced by the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas on Monday, February 26.

The Celtic Routes project, backed by €1.6m of EU funds, aims to encourage visitors to explore new areas of Wales and Ireland en route to their final tourist destination.

Led by Carmarthenshire County Council, the project will focus on the areas of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion in Wales and Waterford, Wicklow and Wexford in Ireland.

The Celtic Routes project aims to transform less well known areas from transit zones to new touring sites, increasing the time visitors spend in these regions and capitalising on the opportunities to boost local economies.

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, said: “Celtic Routes is a great example of EU funds being used to benefit cross border areas in Ireland and Wales by encouraging visitors to explore the local scenery, hospitality and culture of wider regions , and not just tourist hot spots. By helping to increase visitor numbers, the project will stimulate economic growth and both create and safeguard jobs in the cultural, heritage and tourism sectors.

“In light of Brexit it is more important than ever that we support and celebrate the strong Celtic links between our two countries.”

The project will be developed through customer research, trade events and workshops as well as cross border visits by businesses in Ireland and Wales to bring together expertise and ideas.

The aim is to increase the visitor appeal of the targeted areas, including through the development of new trails linking local culture, heritage and the natural environment.

This exciting new initiative will complement The Wales Way, a ten-year strategic initiative launched to the international market last year, to celebrate a range of existing and planned routes and give visitors from around the world the confidence to explore more of Wales.

Irish Government Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, said: “Tourism is one of Ireland’s most important economic sectors and has significant potential to play a further role in Ireland’s economic renewal. On the weekend we welcome Welsh rugby fans to Lansdowne Road, the Celtic Routes project shows how EU funding can support tourism development in a cross-border context to the benefit of both countries.”

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, executive board member for culture, sport and tourism for Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “We have a fantastic opportunity to attract people who are passing through south Wales and Ireland as they travel to their final destination. We want people to stop and appreciate the amazing beauty of the countryside and coast, visit our vast array of attractions and stay, eat and enjoy as our guests before they travel on. Hopefully they will come back time and time again, and tell the world about what we have to offer.”

The Celtic Routes project is part-funded by the EU’s Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme, which supports collaboration between Ireland and Wales to address common economic and social challenges and opportunities.

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Enterprise Zones to be reorganised



Enterprise Zone: 'Little to show for the money', claim Conservatives

ECONOMY Secretary, Ken Skates has announced an intention to streamline the operation of Wales’ eight Enterprise Zones while increasing their focus on delivering prosperity for Welsh communities.

During an appearance at the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, Ken Skates announced the conclusions of his review of the governance of Wales’ Enterprise Zones while stressing his commitment to the continuation of all eight of the zones.

Speaking after Committee, Ken Skates said: “I am very proud of the achievements and success of our Enterprise Zones and grateful for the hard work and commitment of the Chairs and Advisory Boards in driving their success.

“Collectively our Enterprise Zones supported over 10,700 jobs to the end of the last financial year at a cost per job of less than £6k per job, and whilst the pace of delivery has varied between the Zones, this very much reflects each Zone’s economic context and starting position.

“All eight Enterprise Zones have made significant progress, and are continuing to deliver value for money by laying the foundation for future prosperity and creating the right environment to support the development of sustainable job opportunities in communities right across Wales, both in the short and longer term.

“The changes I have outlined are about streamlining bureaucracy and utilising other governance structures where I believe that represents the most sensible way forward. They have also been made as part of a wider review of advisory architecture across my portfolio.

“The views of the Chairs of the Enterprise Zones have been invaluable in shaping my decisions.”

Mr Skates announced that f​our of the eight boards that advise the government on Wales’ enterprise zones are to be wound up this summer. The boards overseeing the zones in Cardiff, St Athan, Deeside and Ebbw Vale will cease to exist from July 31. But the zones themselves – designed to support business growth with some tax incentives – will continue to exist.

Boards in Port Talbot and West Wales will continue, while those for Snowdonia and Anglesey will merge.

Mr Skates also said more enterprise zones could be created, in places such as Wrexham.

Responding to Ken Skates’ comments, Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies, said:​ ​“Labour’s enterprise zones have cost the Welsh taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds – with very little to show for the money and Welsh workers still receiving the lowest average weekly wage in the UK.

“The Cabinet Secretary’s comments indicate the Welsh Government might well continue down the road of Enterprise Zones, potentially throwing good money after bad.

“The approach outlined by Ken Skates seems haphazard at best, utterly shambolic at worst and certainly does not fit into the rhetoric of the Welsh Government’s recently launched economic action plan. Some new enterprise zones are to be created, some boards are to merge, and some wound up altogether!

“The Welsh Government must now make clear its long term plans for the zones and ensure that any future funding produces tangible economic results for Wales and our local communities.”

Wales’ eight Enterprise Zones were first launched in April 2012. The then Cabinet Secretary for Business, Edwina Hart, stated that “My aim in developing enterprise zones is to strengthen the competitiveness of the Welsh economy.​”​

Since the creation of the zones, £221 million of public funds have been allocated to support that policy initiative. Despite huge injections of public funds however, serious questions remain as to whether the Enterprise Zones have delivered their key objectives:

In the Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone £94.6 million has been spent to create, safeguard or assist just 390 jobs (at a cost of around £250,000 per job)

In the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone £2.1 million has been spent to create, safeguarded or assist just 20 jobs (at a cost of £108,333 a job)

A further issue is the question of whether or not Enterprise Zones have come close to fulfilling their original intent.

Enterprise Zones were set up by the Welsh Government to ‘grow the local economy and provide new jobs’.

However, while Mr Skates claims that over 10,700 jobs were ‘supported’, Welsh Government figures suggest that, in practice, the zones have not been used to create new jobs.

The average cost of each new job created by Enterprise Zones has been £74,000

The St Athan Enterprise Zone was supposed to deliver 10,000 jobs by 2025 – but in five years the number of new jobs actually created was 137.

In Ebbw Vale, £94 million has been spent on just 175 new jobs, the equivalent of £500,000 a head.

In Snowdonia, £2.1 million has been spent on creating 6 new jobs.

Looking at the figures revealed for the Haven Enterprise Zone, reveals that 356 jobs have been created, 561.5 safeguarded, and 196 assisted: 1,113.5 jobs.

Using a crude measure – the total number of jobs involved came at a cost of under £8,500 each. However, under one third of those jobs are the sort of new jobs the Enterprise Zone was supposed to create.

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Cyber security a business priority



Cyber security: Greater connectivity brings greater risks

HUMAN error remains the leading cause of data breaches – and these breaches cause organisations a great deal of financial and reputational damage.

In a study published in the Journal of the Association for Information Systems, researchers noted the following: “A leading cause of security breaches is a basic human vulnerability: our susceptibility to deception. Hackers exploit this vulnerability by sending phishing emails that induce users to click on malicious links that then download malware or trick the victim into revealing personal confidential information to the hacker.”

When it comes to improving your organisation’s ability to guard against cyber threats, the best defensive strategy is creating a cyber security culture in the workplace.

Think back in time to the office of 2007, when the only devices connected to your company’s IT network were likely to have been office computers and perhaps a few USB flash drives.

Ten years on, and a huge increase in Wi-Fi enabled devices and the ‘Internet of Things’, the picture has completely changed. These days it’s not uncommon for staff to connect their smartphones to the company Wi-Fi or perhaps bring in their own laptop or tablet if a company has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. Most hardware in an office, for example printers and TVs, is Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth enabled too.

A recent report by Forbes has estimated that by 2025 there will be more than 80 billion active smart devices connected to the internet worldwide – meaning the connected world is only set to grow.

While the connectivity of the ‘Internet of Things’ can be convenient and time-saving, it also has a more sinister side. Such devices provide cybercriminals with an avenue of attack, access and compromise. This can present a problem for many businesses as it can be difficult to keep track with who is using what device.

The real danger is that unsecured devices can act as bridges for cybercriminals meaning they can easily cross into the territory of a business’s sensitive data. Such attacks can cause serious consequences with both financial and reputational repercussions and, in some cases, can potentially cripple a company for days, weeks or even months.


For your business to implement a robust security programme, it’s no good relying on the IT department alone – everyone from senior management down needs to be on board.

Senior management that treat cyber security as a high priority is on average more likely to say that its core staff take it seriously (88% versus 76% overall), according to the Cyber security breaches survey 2017.

Whilst ridding your workplace of Wi-Fi enabled devices is clearly unrealistic, the good news is your network can be re-engineered to ensure devices are ring-fenced and secured.

Your cyber security strategy is only as strong as your weakest link.

Organisations need to make sure that every employee is aware of the potential threats they face, whether it’s a phishing email, sharing passwords or using an insecure network.

Protocol should be clearly outlined and followed by all employees, emphasising for example the importance of keeping sensitive information off portable devices.

Regular staff training is vital to keep your network safe.

Remember, the majority of cyberattacks – over 90% – are the result of human error. And, of course, consulting the expertise of a specialist cyber security consultant is always highly recommended.

Sadly, there’s no business or organisation in the world that can claim to be 100% protected against ransomware and other malicious software.

But with a regularly updated security policy, supported by appropriate backup, data recovery and ongoing staff training, it’s possible to mitigate against such attacks, keeping downtime to a minimum and, most crucially, keeping your data secure.

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