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Transport

Calls for UK Government plan of action on Welsh ports

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Significant bureaucratic pressures faced by hauliers and businesses trading between GB and the EU is having a disproportionate impact on Welsh ports and action must be taken, Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport Ken Skates said today in a letter to the UK Government.

The increased burdens as a result of the UK Government’s approach to exiting the EU has caused hauliers to avoid the “land bridge” between the Republic of Ireland and the continent, with more ferries being put on routes direct from the EU to Ireland.

There are also reports that freight traffic which used to travel between Wales and Northern Ireland via the Republic of Ireland, is now rerouting through the North of England or Scotland direct to Northern Ireland or is not travelling at all.

Low levels of traffic were expected at the start of the month, but as we near the end of the month reductions of between 50 – 70 per cent is of concern. 

Ken Skates said: “The Welsh Government is committed to doing what we can to help businesses navigate and become confident with new border processes which have resulted from the choices the UK Government made about how to leave the EU.  These processes are not teething troubles – they are the permanent consequence of the UK Government’s choices.

“The systems involved are the responsibility of the UK Government,  and we need to see detailed support and training to make sure businesses and hauliers are confident using new border processes to keep goods moving as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“Reports of the loss of the Northern Ireland freight transit represents a concern that the processes which UK Government have put in place are not sufficient to prevent disruption to traffic between Northern Ireland and Wales, which is unacceptable.

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“I have written today to the UK Government to ask what their plan is for reversing this consistent reduction in Welsh ports.  They must also outline how they propose to compensate those communities most impacted by the policy approach they have chosen. 

“Welsh ports are the quickest and most efficient route between Ireland and the UK, and onward to the EU.  I call on the UK Government to take action now to ensure these strategically important routes and the communities which depend on them are supported and protected.”


Cardiff Airport

Wizz Air scraps most Cardiff flights from September

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Popular low cost airline Wizz Air has announced that it is cancelling most of its flights from Cardiff Airport between September and April.

Around 40 of its staff are being offered positions at other UK airports over the Winter.

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Services affected include destinations such as Alicante, Corfu, Heraklion, Faro, Larnaca, Lanzarote, Palma de Mallorca, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Tenerife.

The airline blamed the “challenging macro-economic environment” for the cuts, which kick in from 19 September.

Wizz Air will continue to fly from Cardiff to Milan and Bucharest as part of its Winter schedule launching on 30 October.

Marion Geoffroy, managing director, Wizz Air UK, said: “We are very disappointed to have to suspend several routes from Cardiff Airport for the winter season.”Though these routes have proved popular through the summer season, it would not be commercially viable to continue to operate them through this coming winter due to the challenging macro-economic environment. This leaves us with no option but to pause these routes until next spring.

“We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience this will cause customers who already booked flights with us. We are in touch with all affected customers to explain their options.The airline currently bases a single Airbus A321neo at the Welsh gateway with up to 40 staff.

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“We continue to value our close working relationship with Cardiff Airport and plan to resume base operations at the airport next year… It takes time to build up sustainable operations at any base and we are prepared to build up operations at Cardiff over the long term.”

Wizz Air has announced most of its flights from Cardiff will be cancelled from September

Cardiff Airport announced the launch of Wizz Air to great fanfair in December 2020, however due to the pandemic flights did not actually start until April 2022.

Spencer Birns, Chief Executive Officer of Cardiff Airpot, said: “It is disappointing and frustrating for our customers whose travel plans are disrupted as a result of Wizz Air’s reduction of operations at Cardiff Airport over the winter, which we understand is due to economic factors.

“We always encourage airlines that fly from Cardiff to ensure that they look after their customers who are booked to travel in the event of disruption and understand that Wizz Air have put steps in place to do this for those passengers who have already booked to travel in the period of the pause.

“We have seen great demand for travel to and from Wales this year and our teams have been working really hard to ensure our customers have been able to take safe journeys through the Airport facilities with minimal disruption.

“We remain confident that the people living in Wales really want to make use of flight services that are cost effective and convenient. Our efforts to work with airlines to deploy more capacity on high demand routes will certainly continue.

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“The announcement today of the two new routes to Italy and Romania commencing this autumn along with the summer 2023 schedule is welcome news. We look forward to Wizz Air increasing its operations to popular holiday destinations from Cardiff again next spring”.

Wizz Air launched its services at Cardiff 4 months ago, but has now cancelled the majority of them over the Winter.

Julie James MS, Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change, said: “Whilst this is disappointing news for Cardiff Airport, the airline has stressed to the Airport Board that this is a temporary change to its operations at Cardiff Airport, which was launched in April this year, following a 12 month delay due to the pandemic, and that it remains committed to resuming its scheduled summer timetable from Cardiff Airport from April 2023.

“Despite this difficult commercial decision, I welcome the news that Wizz Air will continue to offer services from Cardiff over the winter season to Milan and Bucharest.”

Welsh Conservative spokeswoman for transport Natasha Asghar MS said: “This is incredibly disappointing news for Cardiff Airport, which has already seen falling passenger numbers and continues to make a loss.

“Wales needs an airport that will attract airlines in order to boost the economy and show Wales off to the world.

“Labour ministers need to monitor the situation and provide urgent clarity as to when the services will resume and what alternative routes are being planned from other airlines”.

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Great Western Railway

More rail strikes set to seriously disrupt train travel

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Great Western Railway (GWR) have said that industrial action by the RMT, Aslef and the TSSA unions will severely affect trains across the GWR network this weekend and next week, with services unable to operate across many routes – including the South Wales mainline.

The action is planned for Saturday 13, Thursday 18 and Saturday 20 August, with days immediately after the strike days also affected. A significantly reduced temporary timetable has been put in place.

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Passengers are advised to find alternative ways to travel on these days and to only travel if absolutely necessary. The majority of GWR train services will not operate and there will be no services on many routes.

While Transport for Wales are not affected by the strikes, services may be very busy in places where GWR are unable to run.

Strike ballots are due to close on 25 August for train drivers working for Transport for Wales and represented by union ASLEF, so further disruption could still be on the cards.

On strike days GWR will operate an extremely limited service between 0700 and 1830, and last trains will leave much earlier.  Where trains are able to operate, they will be extremely busy. 

GWR has said it will operate as many trains as possible during the strike action, however the following travel advice is in place over the strike period: 

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Friday 12 August 
Trains will run as planned but will be busy, and with some minor changes to late night services. Please check before you travel. 

Saturday 13 August 
An extremely limited service will only operate between Bristol Temple-Mead and London Paddington, between Reading and Oxford and between Reading and Basingstoke, with services starting later and finishing much earlier than normal.

No other GWR services, including those in South Wales will run. 
 
Sunday 14 August 
Trains will continue to be severely disrupted, especially on long-distance intercity routes, with GWR asking passengers to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary. 
 
There will be no service on the Oxford to Worcester and Hereford route.

A reduced service frequency will operate on other long-distance routes including London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, London Paddington to Swansea, London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance, and London Paddington to Oxford. 

Local stopping services will operate. GWR are asking passengers to check before travelling.
 
Monday 15 August 
A normal timetable will operate. 
 
Tuesday 16 August 
A normal timetable will operate. 
 
Wednesday 17 August 
Trains will run as planned with some minor changes to late night services. GWR are asking passengers to check before travelling.
 
Thursday 18 August 
A significantly limited service will operate, with GWR asking passengers to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary. 

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No GWR services will operate on the South Wales main line between Carmarthen and Swansea to Cardiff Central.

No rail services will operate on any lines in Cornwall, including all branch lines. No services will operate west of Newton Abbot (change at Exeter) or towards Plymouth and Cornwall due to no contingency signallers.

All branch lines in Devon including Barnstaple, Exmouth, Paignton, Okehampton will not see any service.

GWR Services will not run on the Berks & Hants line (Reading–Taunton via Castle Cary), Wessex main line (Bath Spa–Portsmouth Harbour), Heart of Wessex line (Westbury–Weymouth), TransWilts line (Swindon–Westbury via Melksham), Severn Beach line (Bristol Temple Meads–Severn Beach), North Cotswolds line (Hereford/Worcester–Oxford), South Cotswolds line (Cheltenham Spa–Swindon), Greenford branch line, North Downs line (Reading–Gatwick Airport) or between Worcester and Gloucester. 

GWR are asking passengers to check before travelling.

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Friday 19 August 
Trains will continue to be disrupted, with passengers urged to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary. 

Trains will start later and there will be a reduced level of service throughout the day. Please check before you travel. 
 
Saturday 20 August 
An extremely limited service will operate. GWR services will start later and finish much earlier than normal. 
 
No GWR rail services will operate between Cardiff and Bath or on the South Wales main line between Carmarthen and Swansea to Cardiff Central.

No services will run between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington, between Bristol and Gloucester or between Bristol and Exeter. 

All lines in Cornwall, including all branch lines will see no service.

There will also be no trains west of Newton Abbot towards Plymouth and Cornwall. 

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All branch lines in Devon, including Barnstaple, Exmouth, Paignton, Okehampton will not see any service.

GWR Services will not run on the Berks & Hants line (Reading–Taunton via Castle Cary), Wessex main line (Bath Spa–Portsmouth Harbour), Heart of Wessex line (Westbury–Weymouth), TransWilts line (Swindon–Westbury via Melksham), Severn Beach line (Bristol Temple Meads–Severn Beach), North Cotswolds line (Hereford/Worcester–Oxford), South Cotswolds line (Cheltenham Spa–Swindon), Greenford branch line, North Downs line (Reading–Gatwick Airport) or between Worcester and Gloucester. 

GWR are asking passengers to check before travelling.

Sunday 21 August 
Trains will start later, however a normal level of service is expected. Please check before you travel. 

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Swansea

City-wide bus shelter upgrade almost complete say council

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A set of environmentally friendly bus shelters are set to be installed along main public transport routes in Swansea later this month.

The 10 new ‘green roof’ bus shelters, will be located along Mumbles Road, Oystermouth Road, Quay Parade, Walter Road and St Helen’s Road and will feature natural plants on top, which can help filter out dust particles and contribute to better air quality.

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10 new bus stops with green roofs will be installed in Swansea (Image: Swansea Council)

The green shelter plans are part of Swansea Council’s ongoing upgrade of bus shelters across Swansea.

More than 100 ageing bus shelters across the city have been replaced after the council agreed a new contract with Bus Shelters Ltd.

Andrew Stevens, Cabinet Member for Environment & Infrastructure, said: “Most of our bus shelters in the city were more than 30 years old and were in need of replacing.

“We’ve now replaced around 100 bus shelters with more modern ones which will last for many more years to come.

“We’ve also decided to introduce a number of environmentally friendly bus shelters along some of our busy bus routes in the city. The green roof design will contribute to the council’s wider work to improve air quality.”

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More than 100 ageing bus shelters have already been replaced the council have said (Image: Swansea Council)

As part of the council’s efforts to boost roadside infrastructure for public transport, it has committed a further £100k to provide even more bus stops boost public transport use.

The latest plans also follow on from the recent reintroduction of the free bus offer which the Council has been running throughout school holidays. Families can catch a bus in Swansea and travel for free up until 7pm from Friday – Monday throughout the summer holidays.

Cllr Stevens added: “I’m confident that our investment in public transport infrastructure, along with the provision of the free bus scheme will help encourage families to use buses to get around and have a great summer.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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