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Skates makes case for rail

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Rail investment inequitable: Ken Skates demands action

TRANSPORT S​ECRETARY Ken Skates has cited slow speeds, manual Victorian signalling and level crossings bringing traffic to a standstill up to 200 times a day in his call on the UK Government to make available an equitable level of funding for rail infrastructure enhancements in Wales.

In May, Ken Skates announced Cardiff University’s Professor Mark Barry would lead on the case for investment in rail infrastructure in Wales, against the backdrop of the UK Government’s £50bn investment in HS2.

The Transport Secretary summarised the case in the Senedd on Tuesday​ (Jul 17)​.

Ken Skates told Assembly Members: “The initial findings of this work are stark. Wales has not received an equitable share of UK rail investment over a sustained period, denying us the economic benefits enjoyed elsewhere in the UK.

“Network Rail’s Wales Route, which makes up 11% of the network, has received little more than 1% of total spend on enhancements in England and Wales.

“This has resulted in low lines speed on the South Wales Mainline, capacity and speed constraints along the North Wales Coast, infrequent commuter services for the Swansea Bay city region, and inadequate cross-border services in both North and South Wales.

“I continue to support HS2, but call once again on the UK Government to make the right choices to benefit north Wales, and exert pressure on them to mitigate against the probable impact of HS2 on the economy in South Wales.”

The work carried out by Professor Barry highlights the use of old, inefficient, and unreliable infrastructure constraining the number, speed, and quality of services.

“These constraints dampen demand, restrict economic growth, and increase costs to passengers and tax-payers.

“I will continue to set out a broader vision for a successful rail network. One that helps us meet our obligations to the environment, responsibilities for Well-being and Future Generations, delivers the goals of the Economic Action Plan, and meets the UK Government’s commitment to rebalance the economy.

“The work undertaken has identified direct transport user benefits of at least £2bn, generated by reducing journey times for rail passengers. Additional benefits also arise from reduced road congestion leading to environmental and safety improvements.”

James Price, Chief Executive, Transport for Wales said: “The success of the Wales and Borders rail service relies on efficient and reliable infrastructure with the ability to transport more people more efficiently. We look forward to working with the Welsh and UK governments to deliver improvements that meet the needs of passengers in Wales and across the border.”

Cardiff University Professor of Practice in Connectivity, Mark Barry said: “Wales’ railways are stuck in second gear. Long-term under-investment compared to the UK as a whole has left them unfit for purpose.

“It’s no great surprise fewer people in Wales choose to use the train than in the rest of the UK, leading to less efficient rail operations, higher subsidies per passenger and more road congestion. This is a brake on our economic growth, improvement of air quality and carbon reduction.”

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Dragon Palace owners take on The Woodridge Inn Hotel, Saundersfoot

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AFTER five years running the popular Dragon Palace Chinese restaurant at Pentlepoir in Pembrokeshire, owners Jenny and Lok Cheung have taken on an additional business: The Woodridge Inn Hotel, located just down the road near Saundersfoot.

Following a year of lockdowns and refurbishments the inn is now open, offering a welcoming bar, 17 high quality ensuite rooms and an Asian-themed restaurant. Jenny and Lok have also reopened The Dragon Palace restaurant following lockdown.

Located approximately 4km from Saundersfoot and 6km from Tenby, The Woodridge Inn Hotel has good access to the major ports of Fishguard and Pembroke Dock and is ideally situated for trips to Haverfordwest, Narberth and Carmarthen. Surrounded by beautiful National Trust countryside, it has panoramic views to the sea from some of its second-floor rooms and sits on the stunning Landsker Borderlands Trail as well as being close to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

Food at the The Woodridge Inn Hotel, Saundersfoot

Jenny and Lok hope The Woodbridge will become popular with visitors including walkers, cyclists, bird watchers and golfers (there are a number of 18-hole golf courses nearby). They also aim to make it a popular, family-friendly hub for the local community, just as it used to be in years gone by.

“Local people have told us that they have fond memories of coming here over the years, and we want to bring these local people back,” said Lok. “We want this to be a place they love to come to with their kids, just as they used to come here with their parents. Part of the reason we want it to be family friendly is because we have a young family ourselves, and we think this would be a nice legacy for our children.”

He and Jenny are especially excited about their new restaurant, whose kitchen is headed up by locally renowned award-winning chef Cheryl Badham. Cheryl, who was previously sous chef at The Mulberry restaurant in Saundersfoot, has excellent links with local food producers, and sources the very best ingredients for her kitchen.

“I try to source all my ingredients within Pembrokeshire,” says Cheryl. “We live in such a beautiful county and its produce is something that should be cherished.”

Jenny, Lok and Cheryl have worked together to create a menu that reflects Jenny and Lok’s Asian background. It builds on their experience running The Dragon Palace, but has a broader culinary range, offering pan-Asian and fusion cuisine.

“We’re offering a nice mix of pan-Asian cuisines, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Filipino dishes,” says Lok. “I don’t think there is anywhere in West Wales that does this kind of food at the moment, and we’re pleased offer something fresh and new.”

They have also added Asian touches to the interior and exterior of the hotel, including an impressive pergola entrance to the restaurant created by a local craftsman. Lok and Jenny have worked to enhance the Woodridge’s large garden, making it a perfect place for a spot of al fresco dining or drinks while the children play.

Now, after over a year of preparation, they are delighted to have opened their doors.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs – obviously Covid didn’t help, but it’s coming together now,” says Lok. “We’ve got a hunger for success and we really want to make something special for the area. I think there’s a lot of untapped potential here.

“Our aim is to offer great quality rooms, a quality restaurant and bar and lovely grounds, and also a high standard of service. We’re very much a family-friendly business and we work to make sure our team and our customers are happy – and that everyone has a smile on their face.”

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Pembrokeshire the perfect holiday spot

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Pembrokeshire has been the perfect holiday destination for many years.

The county is home to miles of scenic coastline and beaches, stunning villages full of character and plenty of coastal escapes. It is the perfect place for tourists to sweep the cobwebs away and enjoy the beauty of the scenic Welsh countryside.

But with so many holidaymakers set to staycation in the UK, the question many people have been asking is where will they all stay? This is where Pass the Keys® comes in!

As the demand for staycation accommodation and short-term rentals grows across the UK, and more so in Pembrokeshire, there is an increasing demand for professional holiday let management services to help make the process of short term letting a completely hassle-free and enjoyable experience for property owners.

Pass the Keys® is run by local people & partnered with local companies but backed by a national brand who have are tried and tested infrastructure, as well as award winning technology to keep a cut above the rest. We are proud to be one of the only Professional Co-hosts of Airbnb in Pembrokeshire, so you can rest easy knowing that you are dealing with short-term letting experts.

Mark Pennino and Jamie Smith, Owners of Pass the Keys – South Pembrokeshire

Our holiday homes thrive thanks to our high standards of local support and this is demonstrated by our extremely high ratings on both Trustpilot and Google Reviews, why not take a look for yourself. Our bespoke software systems ensure that your holiday home is successfully marketed, occupied and kept safe, all of which are important factors to consider when selecting a holiday letting agency.

So, if you’re curious to find out more or maybe you are managing your holiday home yourself and it’s all getting a bit too demanding, go to our website and see how much your property can earn.

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Health, safety and welfare facilities enhanced at Milford Fish Docks

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WORK has been completed at Milford Fish Docks to enhance health, safety and welfare facilities, including the installation of the only marine crane in south Wales.

Following close consultation with the fleet, the Port of Milford Haven successfully applied to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to add to the existing provisions for local and European fishers at Wales’ largest fishing port.

Despite progress being delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, embankment ladders, additional life rings and fire extinguishers have all now been installed around the docks, as well as the refurbishment of the shower, toilet and laundry block which includes disabled access.

On the quayside, a marine crane has been installed to enable fishers to load and unload their bait and catch in a safer, more efficient manner, with comprehensive training undertaken by Port staff who are able to operate the crane at any time of the day or night – at no additional cost to the fishing customers.

In order to help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the water, a new mobile foul waste pump out facility is now available meaning any waste from fishing vessels will be taken away and disposed of appropriately rather than entering the waterway.

Melanie Durney, Marina and Docks Manager, said: “We are home to Wales’ largest fishing docks and as a Trust Port we use any profit to develop our infrastructure and services to provide opportunities for today and for future generations. Over the last few years, we have been investing to ensure the inshore fleet can work as effectively and safely as possible, and having this funding meant we could build on what is already here. The new shower and laundry block will make a huge difference to the welfare of fishers as they now have their own designated area to freshen up and the marine crane, which is the only one in the whole of south Wales, will make landing their catch a quicker and safer process.”

The project has been part-funded through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union.

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