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Transport for Wales says sorry for ongoing train chaos

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TRANSPORT FOR WALES has apologised to its customers for the breakdown of locomotives which has caused chaos to railway users in Pembrokeshire and beyond.

The apology comes as commuters have been warned that the travel chaos is likely to continue for at least the next three weeks after Transport for Wales (TfW) stated that an ‘unprecedented’ third of the network’s 127 fleet – 37 locomotives – are damaged.

The handover between the previous franchise holders, Arriva Trains Wales, has also been cited as an issue by the Welsh Government and TfW, with a significant number of train cancellations due to the fact that no spares were available when the handover took place, with tooling and spares taken by Arriva.

In last week’s paper, we reported that many services had been cancelled and that some were running with the help of replacement bus services.

The Herald understands buses from Milford Haven have been booked for the next three weeks for some services.

The firm’s director of customer services, Bethan Jelfs, told The Herald: “Customers are affected throughout our network.

“We are really sorry this is impacting on customers and their journeys and day to day lives.

“We are trying to share that pain around and trying to run trains where the need is greatest, but pretty much all of our routes will be affected.”

She added: “There are some replacement road transport provisions in place for customers and that really is regrettable because we’re not able to run the level of service we want.”

Ms Jelfs explained to The Herald: “We are running services as much as we can but some will be short-form, so customers may experience trains busier than usual.”

Services between Cardiff and Carmarthen, Swansea and Fishguard, the Cambrian line between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury and Heart of Wales line from Llanelli to Llandovery are all affected.

The government has vowed to transform the service and operators KeolisAmey has ordered 148 new trains costing about £800m.

The Welsh Conservative leader used First Minister’s questions last week (Nov 20) to secure answers as to what Transport for Wales’ plan of action is for resolving the capacity issue with its stock.

It follows TfW’s full page apology published in Welsh newspapers where they stated customers ‘haven’t received the service that they deserve and expect’.

Despite past promises of a high quality, affordable, and accessible train network in Wales made by Carwyn Jones, Paul Davies AM highlighted that. TfW’s morning commuter train from Chepstow and Caldicot to Newport and Cardiff has been cancelled 16 times in the last 20 weekdays; Blaenau Ffestinog, Betws-y-coed and Llanrwst have had no trains all day on seven of the last 20 weekdays; And the 08.40 train from Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury was cancelled on four days last week.

Mr Davies also questioned the transparency of the Welsh Government surrounding the tender specification against which the potential rail operators were to bid in order to win the current contract, as Carwyn Jones has refused to make it public.

Under pressure from Mr Davies, the First Minister conceded that the document will be published, but refused to give any time frame.

Outside the Chamber, he told The Herald: “If the problems of Transport for Wales are serious enough to warrant full page apologies in several newspapers, it surely means the Welsh people are angry and concerned at the state of rail capacity in their country.

“I am certain they will be even angrier after seeing him dodge questions on this today.

“The early failures of TfW are disappointing but hardly surprising. The Welsh Labour Government have built a track record of failing miserably at transport and infrastructure projects over the years, so we should continue to expect such failures.

“Going forward, we need far more transparency and dialogue from the Welsh Government, less deflection and obfuscation. Hopefully, the next First Minister will change things, but given the Labour Party’s track record, I sincerely doubt it.”

Stephen Crabb MP told The Herald: “The explanation given by Welsh Government for the current rail disruption in West Wales just isn’t good enough. Services have been cut with very little warning and no clear idea when the issues will be fixed. People who need that service to travel to Carmarthen for work or for medical appointments face massive inconvenience.

“We were promised an upgraded service when Transport for Wales took over from Arriva Trains Wales and that has not been the case. Time and time again Pembrokeshire is treated as an afterthought by Welsh Government.”

As the Herald was going to print, South Wales Central AM, Andrew RT Davies, was calling for an Assembly inquiry into the chaos currently being seen across the rail network in Wales.

He told The Herald that constituents across his region have contacted Mr Davies to express their dismay at the situation, which has seen a significant number of journeys cancelled or replaced by buses.

Consequently, Andrew RT Davies has written to the Chair of the Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, Russell George, requesting the committee considers undertaking an inquiry into the disruption.

Commenting on the fiasco, South Wales Central AM, Andrew RT Davies, told this newspaper: “To say rail services across the Valley Lines network have been a shambles over the past few weeks is an understatement with severe disruption for commuters across South Wales.

“As well as severe overcrowding, there have been numerous delays and cancellations, with a lack of rolling stock to blame and no spare parts to patch up the current fleet.

“We’re led to believe that around a third, possibly even up to a half of all trains in Wales are out of action, and it’s clear the handover from the previous franchise holders, Arriva Trains Wales, has been poorly executed.

“This has been a very frustrating period for my constituents and many other people across Wales, and I believe this warrants a significant and substantial inquiry from the National Assembly’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee.

“It has clearly been a very difficult start for Transport for Wales – and whilst immediate improvements were always unlikely – the fact the day-to-day management of services is getting worse does not bode well for future promises.”

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Protest over animal welfare concerns at Bramble Hill Farm

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LOCALS held a peaceful protest at the site of a Pembroke Dock farm, where over 200 animals were removed after a multi agency response to animal welfare concerns last month.

Around 100 worried locals from Pembroke and Pembroke Dock gathered at the entrance to Bramble Hill Farm last Friday (Feb 15) at 4pm. Those present believed the farm owners are still in possession of dogs, which they cited as the reason for the protest. Head of Environment and Public Protection at Pembrokeshire County Council, Richard Brown later confirmed that there were two dogs left on the farm, but explained they were elderly and looked after. Locals hoped the protest would mean the removal of any animals still left at the property and a ban imposed to prevent any further animals being kept at the property or by the owners.

Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police were present, with the Herald reporter in attendance being told that the police were ensuring it remained peaceful and to keep traffic congestion to a minimum. There was evident hostility towards to the local authorities and RSPCA amongst the protesters, with many feeling that their concerns about the farm were not dealt with soon enough by the relevant organisations.

Speaking to the crowd, Richard Brown said: “So the idea of what we do is, we are proceeding with our enquiries and get the case together. If we get a successful conviction, it’s an opportunity to get a ban on keeping animals. Without that conviction we can’t get a ban.”

He was challenged numerous times on whether Sean Burns, owner of the farm, has been prosecuted for animal cruelty. Mr Brown then confirmed that ‘he has been prosecuted previously’.

He added: “We have to be careful not to prejudice any case. All of our interests is animal welfare. We can’t just go in and remove animals because people want us to. We don’t have those powers.

“There is a range of offences being investigated and a range of individuals being investigated.”

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Neyland woman imprisoned for driving while disqualified

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A 35-YEAR-OLD woman who was caught driving while disqualified twice in four days days has been sentenced to six months in prison.

Victoria Anne James, of College Park, Neyland, was stopped by Dyfed-Powys Police roads policing officers in Johnston on Friday, February 15. She was reported for the offences and her Alfa Romeo car was seized.

James was stopped a second time by police on Monday, February 18, for driving while disqualified while driving another car.

She was arrested and charged with two counts of driving while disqualified and two counts of driving without insurance.

She was convicted at Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Courts that same day and received a six month prison sentence, and received a further 24 months Driving Disqualification.

Sergeant Justin Williams said: “Police intelligence led officers to stop Victoria Anne James on February 15 where she was reported for offences and her car was seized. For her to commit the same offence two days later shows her disregard for the law.

“I hope this targeted, swift work from roads policing officers and the courts, which has resulted in a prison sentence serves as a stark warning to James and others considering flouting the laws on our roads. We are monitoring our roads and we will take robust action to ensure we keep other drivers on our roads safe by upholding the law.”

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Boy took his own life after failure to refer him for psychiatric support

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THE INQUEST into the death of 14 year-old Derek Brundrett, who was found hanged at Pembroke School in December 2013, has found that there were individual failings in efforts to get psychiatric support for the teenage boy – who then went on to take his own life.

Derek had seven different social workers and record keeping by social services was in a “shocking state of affairs” leading up to his death.

Returning a narrative verdict, the Assistant Coroner, Paul Bennett, said: “That Derek Brundrett took his own life and intended to do so in circumstances where, despite efforts to refer him for psychiatric support there was a failure to do so.”

Although no systemic failures were found, the Assistant Coroner ruled that there was a failure to refer by a social worker, a failure by a GP to provide extra information when referrals in 2012 and 2013 were declined, and a further failure to provide the relevant information on the appropriate referral form of a Looked After Child.

Derek’s death was in the context that he had been returned to foster care and was concerned about a return to the Pupil Referral Unit.

Derek’s actions were not considered to be a cry for help but rather a deliberate attempt at self-harm, the Coroner’s report stated.

The inquest had previously heard there were numerous failed attempts to refer him to mental health services.

A social services referral plan was not completed by Derek’s social worker because “she believed him to be happy”.

The inquest also heard Derek’s GP had made “routine” referrals for mental health treatment in 2012 and 2013.

Angela Lodwick, head of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for the Hywel Dda University Health Board, said they had to “prioritise children with severe mental health disorders”.

She added requests for more information about Derek’s condition went unanswered.

But she told the inquest that, at the time, CAMHS was not proactive in seeking more information.

Ms Lodwick said CAMHS would have probably “taken him on referral and made an assessment” if they had known about Derek’s risk-taking behaviour and talk of suicide in 2013, such as when he climbed onto the school roof.

She told the inquest the system had been inadequate and “the position was that everyone sat on their hands waiting” but CAMHS has since made improvements.

A spokesman for the Pembrokeshire County Council said: “The death of a child is a profound loss and all the professionals involved in this tragedy feel great sympathy for Derek and his family and friends. We would like to repeat our sincere condolences to them at this time.

“Derek’s loss is deeply felt by those individuals who had formed close and caring relationships with him.

“We would like to thank the Coroner for his thorough investigation and consideration of the case.

“We will, of course, reflect upon all of the issues that have been raised during the Inquest, and consider what lessons can be learned with a view to continuing to ensure the safeguarding and well-being of all children and young persons served by Pembrokeshire County Council.”

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