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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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Home office is ‘misleading the public’ over police funding, says Police and Crime Commissioner

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THE POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER has told The Herald that he believes that the Home Office is ‘misleading the public’ that his force will have an increase in funding in 2019/2020.

On the face of it, it appears that Dyfed-Powys Police will have an increase in funding of £8.1 million in 2019/20. However this figure is based upon the presumption that PCC Dafydd Llywelyn will increase the current Band D property precept level by £24 annually.
After what he describes as a frustrating delay, the Government’s provisional grant funding settlement has been announced, which sets out the position for Dyfed-Powys Police for the 2019/20 financial year. On the face of it, it appears that Dyfed-Powys Police will have an increase in funding of £8.1 million in 2019/20. However this figure is based upon the presumption that PCC Dafydd Llywelyn will increase the current Band D property precept level by £24 annually.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said: “The way in which the Home Office and Central Government are misleading the public is disgraceful and I am very disappointed in the way this settlement once again shifts the burden onto local tax payers. I continue to try and do the right thing to protect our communities but I feel we are being let down by the Government in London as their actions are likely to impact on our local services.”
“I am currently consulting with the residents of Dyfed-Powys; asking if they would be willing to pay additional police precept to continue to safeguard our communities. Within the survey I have outlined the impact of for Dyfed-Powys Police and its communities. My decision will be made by listening to local communities and the professional advice of the Chief Constable.”
“I am working closely with the Chief Constable to critically review all aspects of the budget requirement. Given the scale of financial challenges that are faced, a precept increase will be unavoidable, but how much this is increased by should not be dictated by Government.”

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Police issue warning over sheep attacks in Pembrokeshire

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE has issued advice to pet owners following a spate of livestock worrying incidents in the Saundersfoot, Narberth and Crescelly areas.

There have been six reports of dog attacks on sheep in the past three weeks, one of which caused a dog to be shot after it was caught attacking sheep in Solva.

PC Gerwyn Davies of the Pembrokeshire Rural Crime Team, told The Herald: “It is important dogs are always kept on leads near livestock, but especially so at this time of year. Sheep are heavily in lamb and their numbers have increased because they come from high grounds in mid Wales for the winter.

“Sheep worrying can have a long term effect on ewes as they can lose pregnancies as a result of stress. This obviously has a negative impact on farmers who not only lose out financially, but it is also very upsetting.

“Sadly, three ewes have been killed and several more injured in the past few weeks. One family dog was shot in Solva after it attacked sheep, which is a sad situation for the dog’s owner and upsetting for the farmer.”

Farmers can legally shoot any dog if they believe it is the only reasonable way of stopping it worrying livestock. If your dog chases or attacks livestock you should make arrangements to contact the landowner/livestock owner.

Anyone who has information about, or wants to make a report of livestock worrying, can contact the Pembrokeshire Rural Crime Team by calling 101.

Dog owners are reminded of this advice when walking in the countryside:

  • Do not allow your dog to enter a field on its own and keep it under your control at all times.
  • Keep your dog on a lead when crossing through fields that contain livestock.
  • Stick to public right of ways.

When at home:

  • Make sure you know where your dog is at all times.
  • Ensure that your property is secure and that your dog cannot escape day or night.
  • If you know your dog has previously chased or attacked sheep then take responsible measures to prevent it happening again.
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New First Minister announces his cabinet

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THE FIRST MINISTER FOR WALES, Mark Drakeford, has today announced his new look cabinet to lead Wales. The First Minister said: “It is an enormous privilege for me to be appointed First Minister of Wales. Every leader needs a strong team around them, and I am delighted to introduce my new cabinet which is a strong mix of experience, talent and passion.

“Brexit is our greatest challenge.  In the extraordinary and regrettable circumstances created by the UK Government, it is vital that we prepare for all outcomes. I have retained Ministers in posts where their experience of Brexit preparation is key, while creating a new post to reflect the priority I attach to international relationships and trade.

“As a government we will continue to speak up for Wales, to fight our country’s corner and make sure the government in London is never in any doubt at all of what matters to the people of Wales.”

Cabinet and Deputy Ministers

Vaughan Gething
Minister for Health and Social Services  – Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Julie Morgan
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Eluned Morgan
Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language – Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol

Dafydd Elis-Thomas
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Diwylliant, Chwaraeon a Thwristiaeth

Ken Skates
Minister for Economy and Transport – Gweinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth

Lee Waters
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport – Dirprwy Weinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth

Julie James
Minister for Housing and Local Government – Y Gweinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol

Hannah Blythyn
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol

Rebecca Evans
Minister for Finance and Trefnydd – Y Gweinidog Cyllid a’r Trefnydd

Kirsty Williams
Minister for Education – Y Gweinidog Addysg

Lesley Griffiths
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs – Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig

Jeremy Miles
Counsel General Designate and Brexit Minister – Y Darpar Gwnsler Cyffredinol a’r Gweinidog Brexit

Jane Hutt
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip – Y Dirprwy Weinidog a’r Prif Chwip

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