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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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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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