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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.

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Carbon capture option Pembroke Power Station

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RWE, who operates Pembroke Power Station, has signed a contract with Fluor – a global  engineering and construction firm that specialises in carbon capture projects.  The project will investigate the feasibility of retrofitting post-combustion capture of carbon at Pembroke Power Station. The study is expected to take six months, completing in early 2023.

This feasibility study is part of RWE’s ambitious decarbonisation plans centred around the Pembroke Net Zero Centre, which brings together knowledge and expertise from across RWE’s offshore wind, gas-fired generation and hydrogen businesses to develop green energy solutions for both Pembrokeshire and the South Wales region. This is the second project to come out of RWE’s Pembroke NetZero Centre (PNZC), which launched earlier this year.

This report will form part of the analysis required for RWE to participate in the UK Government’s carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) cluster sequencing process. This was a commitment to deploy CCUS in a minimum of two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s, and four by 2030 at the latest in support of the UK’s transition to net zero.

RWE is developing options for the decarbonisation of its 2.2 gigawatt gas-fired Power Station in Pembroke, among them post-combustion carbon capture and the introduction of hydrogen as a clean fuel. Pembroke’s South Wales location provides it with the unique advantages of being within an industrial hub and creating collaboration opportunities with partners from within the South Wales Industrial Cluster (SWIC) who together cover the full low carbon value chain, including – from the necessary ship transport and storage of CO2 to the supply of clean hydrogen.

Richard Little, Director of the Pembroke Net Zero Centre , said: “RWE is committed to decarbonising its business by 2040, a date that in the UK fits nicely alongside the Government’s ambition for a net zero power sector by 2035. Through our PNZC we will create a hub for our green energy projects, including the development of floating wind in the Celtic Sea, the development of a hydrogen electrolyser and decarbonisation of Pembroke Power station through a mixture of carbon capture and hydrogen fuel. We are already working with South Wales businesses to help them meet their decarbonisation targets, while supporting the Welsh Government to achieve its ambitions for Net Zero.”

Julian Marschewski from RWE Generation’s Strategic Development department , said: “Kicking off this technical feasibility study with Fluor is an important step towards creating tangible options for our lighthouse decarbonisation project at Pembroke. The experience gained will also give us a better understanding on how to decarbonise RWE’s wider fleet of gas-fired assets.”

RWE is at the forefront of green innovation and is aiming to invest £15 billion in the UK in green energy projects by 2030. The company has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the development of hydrogen projects across Europe, and at the same time creating skilled green jobs.

The feasibility study has been partly funded by South Wales Industrial Cluster; a consortium of Wales’s major industry, energy, infrastructure, law, academic and engineering organisations of which RWE is a key member. The cluster was successful in securing support from the public and private sector to develop a range of partner decarbonisation deployment projects for the region.

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News

Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre welcomes manager of Lucasfilm

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THE NEW Millennium Falcon exhibition at Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre welcomed a very special visitor recently, one whose major support and contributions made the unique project possible.

Lynwen Brennan, Executive Vice-President and General Manager of Lucasfilm Ltd – who was brought up in Pembrokeshire – had a first hand insight into the Pembroke Dock Falcon exhibition, which opened earlier this year.

Detailing the construction of the first complete version of the iconic Millennium Falcon for use in the Oscar winning ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, the exhibition has been an amazing success over the summer, attracting thousands of Star Wars fans to West Wales.

The spaceship was constructed in a Pembroke Dock aircraft hangar over 40 years ago.

Brennan was welcomed by Trust Chairman Graham Clarkson and Exhibition Project Manager Mark Williams along with Trustees Rik Saldanha, Gareth Mills and Martin Cavaney.

When viewing the many images on display, most of which had been kindly supplied by the Lucasfilm Archives, Brennan paid special attention to the photos that had been taken by some of the workers at the time of the construction. 

She remarked: “This is such a wonderful personal story to the people of Pembroke Dock; I am so

happy that this has finally been made possible.”

She also praised the scale model of the Falcon that takes centre stage in the exhibition, demonstrating the stages of construction, “This is a very clever way to show exactly how the Falcon was put together,” she added.

Brennan was given a special preview of the centre’s plans to develop and expand the exhibition by integrating both virtual and augmented reality experiences. Her son particularly enjoyed playing with the virtual Falcon model.

Project Manager Mark Williams commented: “This visit means so much to us all at the centre. After all of the hard work put in by everybody, it was a pleasure to show the results to the person who effectively made the whole project possible. We look forward to when we can welcome Lynwen and her family back to her home county again.”

Remember to vote for the Pembroke Dock Falcon exhibit in the National Lottery Awards Project of the Year competition.

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Education

MHS Big Picture on tour

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DID you know that being creative can reduce stress, anxiety and help reduce symptoms of depression? 

Milford Haven School Art Club does, and that is why they want to invite our community to join them in creating a Big Picture together for World Mental Health Day.

Charities and organisations such as 2Wish, Samaritans and Liss Listens will be teaming up with Milford Haven School to help paint our Big Picture. 

Our Big Picture will go on to be donated to the community and be displayed in Milford Haven to spread joy and positivity.

Join them on Friday, October 14 between 10am and 2pm at Pill Social Centre. No experience is needed, everyone is welcome and all equipment and refreshments will be provided on the day.

They can’t wait to see you all

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