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Bus services to be reduced due to funding cuts and fall in passengers

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A BUS route in Pembrokeshire is to be affected by newly-announced cuts in bus services across West Wales.

The frequency of the First Cymru 349 route will drop from an hourly service to every 90 minutes during the winter months (changes will take effect from 29th October onwards).

The route operates between Haverfordwest and Tenby via Johnston, Neyland, Pembroke Dock, Pembroke, Lamphey, Hodgeston, Jameston, Manorbier and Penally.

Councillor Rhys Sinnett, Cabinet Member for Resident Services, said the County Council would continue lobbying Welsh Government to increase funding for bus services.

“One of the most immediate concerns is the impact for Pembrokeshire people in accessing employment opportunities,” he said.

“With reduced bus services many residents are facing substantial hurdles in getting to work and this situation threatens not only the financial stability of people and their families but the economic prosperity of the region as a whole.

“We accept these are difficult financial times but we strongly urge the Welsh Government to reconsider its funding decisions so public transportation here and across Wales can be accessible, reliable and viable.”

Concerns have risen recently that April 2024 could see many further reductions locally and across Wales as subsidies dry up.

Welsh Government’s Bus Emergency Scheme (BES) which supported the bus industry through the Covid pandemic has now been replaced by the Bus Transition Fund (BTF) with its budget capped at £46m for the 2023/2024 financial year.

The funding, with £4m of it dedicated to the Traws Cymru Network, is allocated directly to bus operators across Wales’s 22 local authorities.

First Cymru says its reduced budget forced it to announce the cut to the 349 Pembrokeshire service.

The new 349 timetable will be made available ahead of the changes on the First Cymru website.

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Pembrokeshire embraces future with new e-bike scheme

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL, under the chairmanship of Thomas Baden Tudor, has announced an exciting new initiative aimed at boosting sustainable transportation across the region. The council has introduced a “pay as you go” electric bike (E-Bike) service, now available in Haverfordwest, Fishguard, Goodwick, and Tenby as part of a 12-month trial that commenced on 8th April 2024.

The scheme, managed by Zeus Mobility, features the Zip bikes—electrically powered bicycles designed to make cycling less strenuous and more accessible to a broader demographic. Each location will start with 10 E-Bikes, with plans to increase the fleet to 50 by summer. The service will include three main charging stations and numerous satellite bays for convenient access and returns.

Priced competitively, the E-Bikes can be hired for £3.00 for the first hour, with subsequent time billed at 5p per minute. Daily and weekly rates are also available, offering users more flexibility for longer trips. The bikes are aimed at reducing reliance on motor vehicles, promoting healthier living, and contributing to national decarbonisation targets.

Councillor Tudor tested the new bikes himself, describing the experience as “brilliant fun for the whole family” and encouraging all residents and visitors to give them a try. The initiative is part of a broader effort by the council to offer eco-friendly travel options that align with environmental objectives.

To use the E-Bikes, riders need to download the Zipp Mobility app, which allows for bike unlocking, ride tracking, and payment. The app also provides information on bike locations, parking bays, and cycling routes within the county.

Funded by a £150,000 grant from the Swansea Bay and South West Wales Metro, the project focuses solely on this E-Bike trial, aiming to make Pembrokeshire a leader in sustainable travel. For further details on hiring and operating the E-Bikes, residents can visit the Cycle Pembrokeshire webpage or contact the team directly via email at [email protected].

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20mph U-turn: Some roads will return to 30mph following public outcry

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IN a recent shift in policy, Transport Secretary Ken Skates announced that some roads in Wales will revert to a 30mph speed limit following significant public opposition to the Welsh Government’s £34 million initiative to impose a default 20mph limit. This move addresses the concerns consistently raised by many citizens.

The controversial policy, initially rolled out across Wales under former First Minister Mark Drakeford and his transport minister, Lee Waters, aimed at enhancing road safety. However, it has since faced backlash, illustrated by nearly half a million signatures on a Senedd petition opposing the change.

“We’ve put our hands up to say the guidance has to be corrected,” Skates stated, acknowledging the widespread dissatisfaction with the policy’s implementation. He emphasised the need for targeted 20mph zones, particularly in sensitive areas such as near schools, hospitals, and densely populated housing estates. Yet, he admitted that certain routes should not have been included under the stricter speed limit.

Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart welcomed the revised approach but highlighted the financial burden of changing road signage, urging the Welsh Government to assist with the expenses. Stewart praised Skates’ “pragmatic approach” and stressed that the government should not impose the financial strain on local councils, which are already facing tough budgetary decisions.

The policy has had its proponents, particularly among cycling groups and safety advocates who argue that the lower speed limits contribute to safer community spaces. Despite this, many have called for a more nuanced application of the speed limits rather than a blanket reduction.

In response to the backlash, Skates is set to present the planned adjustments in a forthcoming statement to the Senedd. The changes will allow local councils the autonomy to restore the 30mph limit where deemed appropriate, potentially affecting up to 10 roads in Swansea alone.

Leaders from other councils, including Huw Thomas of Cardiff, expressed relief over the change. Cardiff, where the majority of roads were already under a 20mph limit, saw a favourable reception of the policy. Nonetheless, the decision to empower local governments has been largely welcomed.

The Welsh Conservatives, through their transport spokesperson Natasha Asghar, have voiced strong opposition to the original policy, criticising its expansive application. Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth called for a more carefully considered implementation, supporting the principle of 20mph zones but criticising their inconsistent enforcement.

Responding to comments made by Ken Skates, Labour’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport on potential changes to the 20mph guidance, Natasha Asghar MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister said: “The people of Wales have rightfully taken significant issue with Labour’s 20mph policy and ‘correcting guidance’ will not be enough to ease concerns.

“The Welsh Conservatives are the only the party to have consistently voted against the ridiculous 20mph policy involving 97% of previously 30mph roads and a £9 billion hit to the Welsh economy.

“The Welsh Conservatives want to see this policy scrapped and have given the Labour Government a number of opportunities to vote to do so. A more targeted approach is needed with the support of the Welsh people.”

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Community

Miracle pup finds her forever home after heart-wrenching journey

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AERIAL, a remarkable six-legged spaniel, has captured hearts worldwide, culminating in her adoption this week. Found abandoned in a Pembrokeshire car park and famously nicknamed after Disney’s Little Mermaid due to her unique condition, Ariel’s journey from despair to joy is nothing short of miraculous.

In September 2023, the then 11-week-old puppy was discovered outside a B&M store in a neglected state. Suffering from severe physical anomalies including two extra hind limbs and an additional vulva, Ariel faced daunting challenges. A subsequent medical examination revealed a more complicated internal scenario: a missing kidney and a malformed pelvis that jeopardised her mobility.

Despite the grim prognosis, Ariel’s plight touched many, leading to a worldwide fundraising campaign that raised approximately £15,000. These funds enabled her to undergo critical surgeries at Langford Vets Small Animal Referral Hospital, Somerset, where surgeons successfully removed the surplus limbs and preserved her four functional ones.

“Both procedures went well, and remarkably, Ariel was walking and eating by the next day,” explained Mikey Lawlor, founder of Greenacres Rescue, where Ariel was rehabilitated. “It was crucial that we avoided any post-operative infections, but she’s been in the best hands,” he added, reflecting on the complexities of her care.

Ariel’s recovery was supported by numerous vet visits, specialised surgeries, and extensive physiotherapy. Her resilience and endearing character garnered media attention globally, from radio and television appearances to newspaper features, highlighting her inspirational battle for a normal life.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Ariel has been officially adopted,” announced a recent post by Greenacres Rescue. “Her journey of transformation from a discarded pup to a beloved family pet has been extraordinary.”

The post also extended a heartfelt thank you to June, Ariel’s dedicated foster mother, whose relentless support was pivotal during the rehabilitation process. “June’s care and energy have been instrumental in Ariel’s recovery,” the rescue centre noted.

Surgeon Aaron Lutchman, who led Ariel’s medical team, remarked on her progress, “She’s bounced back and is a happy little dog. We hope she goes on to lead a fabulous life.”

As Ariel embarks on this new chapter with her adoptive family, her story remains a profound testament to the power of community support and the unwavering spirit of animals overcoming adversity. Greenacres Rescue encapsulates this sentiment in their message, “Ariel is symbolic of everything we stand for—love, hope, and the chance for a new beginning.”

For further updates on Ariel and other rescue stories, follow Greenacres Rescue on their social media platforms.

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