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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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Fishguard: Traws Cymru bus destroyed in vehicle fire

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THE TRAWS CYMRU T5 Bus caught fire on Friday evening (May 17) in Fishguard, no passengers onboard.

According to local reports, only the driver was in the bus, which was on the way back to the depot.

The Herald understands that the driver got off safely.

Police and fire service were at the scene and the blaze was quickly extinguished.

Bus enthusiast Jim Horrissey said on Facebook: “The bus was Optare Tempo X1200 YJ56 WUG.

“It had finished it’s device on the T11 and was heading back to Fishguard when the fire started. Nobody was hurt, and only the driver was onboard.”

The 19 year old bus was formerly on service with the Norfolk Green Line, which is owned by Stagecoach before being put into general Statecoach service.

It was most recently operated by Richard Brothers.

According to their website, The TrawsCymru T5 provides a regular and direct service along the scenic Cambrian Coast, linking Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, New Quay, Cardigan, Fishguard and Haverfordwest.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Parked up: Bus before the fire

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Dementia Action Week

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LIBRARIES across the county will be supporting Dementia Action Week this month.

Dementia Action Week (20-26 May) aims to unite individuals, workplaces and communities to take action and improve the lives of people living with dementia.

“Unfortunately there are many people living with dementia in Pembrokeshire,” said Laura Evans, Library Development Officer.

“It is important that we do all we can to raise awareness of the condition and to help those people who are living with it.”

Reminiscence sessions will be the focus in some libraries, with members of the public invited to bring along old photographs of their local area to help people recall events, places or people.

Craft activities will be taking place to make ‘twiddle sheets’, that provide visual, tactile and sensory stimulation to people with dementia, with the finished sheets being donated to local groups and charities.

Libraries in Pembrokeshire offer a range of books about dementia, including the ‘Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia’ collection.

The collection, which has been recommended by experts and endorsed by well-known charities and health organisations, provides information and advice for living well after diagnosis, as well as personal stories and practical support.

Information on all Dementia Action Week events taking place at local libraries will be available from:

· www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/libraries-and-culture,
· on the Libraries Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PembrokeshireLibraryService
· or ask at your local library for details

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TPS scam alert issued

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PEMBROKESHIRE Trading Standards are warning local residents of a current telephone scam.

Callers claiming to be from the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) have been phoning residents asking them to pay for the service or to update their contact details.

In fact, the TPS is free – and it does not contact its customers to update their details.

“The TPS is the official service for people to register to opt out of receiving marketing phone calls to land and mobile telephones. It is free and once a phone number is registered, it remains on the list with no need for it to be updated,” said Sandra McSparron, Trading Standards Officer at Pembrokeshire County Council.

“If you have been contacted by phone asking you to pay for TPS services, or update your details, it is a scam.”

Pembrokeshire Trading Standards has also received a report of someone being phoned regarding national insurance fraud and asking for details of the person’s National Insurance number.

Trading Standards would advise people not to share this information with unknown callers.

· If you suspect a scam call, hang up and report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506 / 03454 040505 (Welsh Speaker).

· Registering your telephone number with the TPS can be done via their telephone number 0345 070 0707 or the website www.tpsonline.org.uk

· The Trading Standards Team offers talks to any groups in Pembrokeshire advising how to spot and avoid scams and what to do if you or someone you know is receiving these contacts. For further details please phone 01437 764551 or email tradingstandards@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

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