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Public advised to avoid rail travel as biggest strike in 30 years about to start

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THE BIGGEST rail strikes in three decades are due to start on Monday night (Jun 20), bar an unlikely late breakthrough in talks, with trains cancelled across Great Britain for much of the week.

Talks between senior rail industry figures and union leaders were taking place through the day to try to avoid industrial action, although with little optimism from either side or government that any agreement could be reached.

The first of three 24-hour walkouts by 40,000 RMT members, including signallers, maintenance and train staff, will start just after midnight on Tuesday morning, with only one in five trains running on strike days and halting services altogether in much of northern and south-west England, Wales and Scotland.

Only four rail routes will be operating in Wales on the three strike days and at a reduced service. Services will start at 7am and stop at 6pm.

These include:
• An hourly service between Radyr and Treherbert
• An hourly service between Radyr and Aberdare
• An hourly service between Radyr and Merthyr Tydfil (apart from on Saturday, June 25, when it’s between Radyr and Pontypridd)
• Reduced services on the mainline between Cardiff and London from 7am to 6pm. The last train from London is at 4.27pm.

Major train stations including Swansea, Bridgend, Carmarthen, Llanelli, Aberystwyth, Holyhead and Llandudno will have no services. There will only be limited services from Cardiff, Newport, Pontypridd and stations on the Valley lines to Merthyr, Aberdare and Treherbert.

Full details of the timetable for the days of the strike have been published.

Customers can find these on the TfW, Traveline and National Rail websites using the journey planners.

Customers with existing non-season tickets valid for travel from Tuesday 21 June to Saturday 25 June can use those tickets anytime between Monday 20 June and Monday 27 June. Alternatively, customers can claim a full refund, with no admin fee charged. Season ticket holders can apply for compensation via Delay Repay.

In the meantime, TfW has suspended sales of Advance tickets for the first three strike dates in order to minimise the number of people disrupted. Customers are advised to continue to check the TfW or Traveline websites, and those of other operators, for updates.
Transport for Wales says passengers should not travel by train during the three strike days on June 21, 23 and 25. There are no strikes on June 20, 22, 24 and 26 but Transport for Wales said people should only travel if essential as services would still be affected.

Staff working for Transport for Wales are not affected by the strike. But RMT staff working for Network Rail which manages the infrastructure across the UK are going on strike meaning that services across the UK are all affected.

Only services in Transport for Wales routes in one part of the Valleys and services on the mainline into Wales from London going as far as Cardiff will be operating. There will be no services west of Cardiff.

The strikes, over pay and attempts to reform the rail industry with post-Covid work patterns hitting commuter revenues, will cause six days of disruption, with trains limited to one an hour between 7.30am and 6.30pm on major intercity and urban routes. Services will start later and be reduced on subsequent days.

Trains will be at a standstill (Image Herald)

The action is being taken by Network Rail employees and onboard and station staff working for 13 train operators in England. The RMT said thousands of jobs were at risk in maintenance roles and that ticket office closures were planned, on top of pay freezes during a time of high inflation.

The walkout by signallers will have most impact, particularly in rural areas, leading to line closures in places such as Wales, where there is no direct dispute with the train operator. Most operators have told passengers to travel only if necessary on strike days. Northern Rail has advised passengers not to travel for the whole week.

While Conservatives have attempted to associate the union-backed Labour party with the strikes, Labour has pointed out that the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, and other ministers have refused to take part in talks.

Unions asked to meet ministers, saying the Treasury and Department for Transport control contracts and funding. Shapps said it was up to employers to negotiate, although train operating companies have been told they cannot offer pay rises, according to industry insiders and unions.

The shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, speaking on the BBC Today programme on Monday, said it was imperative that the government stepped in. She said: “Not only are they boycotting the talks, they are actually hobbling them .”

However, Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, told the BBC: “There’s no point giving false hope, if you like, that these strikes can be avoided. At this stage it is likely that they will proceed.”

The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, is set to table legislation to allow agency workers to step in during strikes, which could be enacted by late July to apply to future industrial action. The RMT said it would be impossible to draft in people to replace skilled rail workers and a spokesperson said it was “playing to the gallery”.

Shapps said on Sunday it was “crazy” to suggest that the Tories wanted rail unions to go on strike, after Labour accused the government of encouraging the walkouts to go ahead in order to stoke division. He said the strikes were “unnecessary” and a result of trade union leaders “gunning for” a fight, accusing the RMT of planning to “punish millions of innocent people”.

Last week, Shapps told rail staff they risked “striking yourself out of a job”. Network Rail bosses estimate the stoppages will cost the industry about £150m in lost revenue.

Talks have been ongoing between Network Rail and the RMT but bosses admitted there was little hope of a breakthrough.

The walkouts are on 21, 23 and 25 June and a special timetable will be in operation from Monday, with some evening services curbed, until Sunday. About 20% of trains will run on mainlines and urban areas.

Adding to the commuter misery, a separate London Underground strike will also bring much of the capital’s transport to a halt on Tuesday. About 10,000 members of the RMT will walk out for 24 hours, closing most tube lines. Transport for London has advised people to avoid travelling on all of its services if possible, with buses likely to be crowded and slow on jammed roads.

The London overground and Elizabeth lines will also continue to be affected by the national rail strike throughout the week.

Other unions may join the rail strike later in the summer, in a move that could halt services altogether. The TSSA union, which represents control room staff and managers who step in to run contingency signalling, is balloting members at Network Rail and announced strike votes at more train operators last week.

News

New mobile visitor centre ready to help visitors gear up for the Pembrokeshire Coast

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Park Authority Ranger Richard Vaughan and Summer Ranger Megan Holt with the new information van at Poppit Sands.

PEOPLE visiting some of Pembrokeshire’s top beaches and events may soon encounter a new mobile information centre, with a specially converted van ready to hit the road and help people enjoy their visit.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s new information van will be set up at seaside locations and popular local events, with Rangers on hand to give advice to those who need help and suggest free activities for those looking to discover the area’s wildlife.

National Park Authority Ranger Service Manager, Libby Taylor said: “This new vehicle will help our staff provide a range of information at locations where we know many people head to enjoy the National Park.

“As well as helping people learn more about the area and the different ways they can make the most of their visit, people can also find out how they can make the least impact on the Park during their stay.

“As well as having an awning to provide shelter, the van also includes space for magnetic panels that can be changed so the information that’s most relevant to the location or event can be provided.”

The vehicle, which has been converted by local company Poppit Campers, also includes a solar panel, which will help to power two iPads, which will give members of the public a chance to find further information on subjects such as nearby walks and wildlife identification.

The purchase and conversion of the vehicle was made possible through the support of the Welsh Government.

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Community

Deadline approaching for £500 payment to unpaid carers

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THE DEADLINE to apply for a one-off £500 payment to eligible unpaid carers in Wales is rapidly approaching.

The Welsh Government scheme, administered by Pembrokeshire County Council, is open to all unpaid carers in Wales who were in receipt of Carers Allowance on 31 March 2022.

The deadline to apply is 5pm on 15th July 2022 and those who believe they are eligible are urged not to miss out.

The Council is also sending out 400 letters this week to those they believe may be eligible and who have not yet applied.

The payment is in recognition of the increased financial pressures many unpaid carers experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic and to help with some of the additional costs they have incurred. 

The payment is targeted towards those individuals who care for someone for at least 35 hours a week and have low incomes.

You will not be eligible for the payment if:

  • You have an underlying entitlement to Carers Allowance but do not receive a payment because you are in receipt of another benefit at the same or higher rate; or
  • You only receive the carer premium  

If you have already applied please be assured the Council is working its way through the applications as quickly as possible.

How to apply

Applicants (this should be the person in receipt of carer’s allowance)

are required to complete the online form at: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/grants/unpaid-carers-500-pound-payment

Required information is:

  • Your name, address, telephone number and email address
  • Date of Birth
  • National Insurance Number
  • Post code
  • A bank statement showing your name, address, account number and sort code

If you are having problems completing the on-line application form please email: UnpaidCarers@pembrokeshire.gov.uk alternatively call 01437 764551 for assistance.

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Crime

Lola James: Two people have denied charges in connection of the death of 2-year-old

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TWO people who have been charged in connection with the death of a Haverfordwest toddler have denied charges.

30-year-old Kyle Bevan of Aberystwyth, denied a charge of murder at Swansea Crown Court.

Lola’s mum Sinead James, 29, denied a charge of causing or allowing the death of a child.

Lola died in Hospital on July 21, 2020, four days after sustaining a severe head injury at her home address in Princess Royal Way, Haverfordwest.

Bevan was remanded into custody.

James was released on conditional bail.

The trial will take place in 2023 and Judge Thomas said it is expected to last four weeks.

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