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All change at Swansea station as reconstruction of longer platform 4 gets underway

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Construction of a new, longer platform 4 at Swansea station is underway, following a month of demolition work to remove and recycle the old one. 

The new platform will be 260m long, 13m longer than the original, to allow GWR’s new Intercity Express Trains to arrive and depart from it. It forms a key part of plans to modernise the station and improve the experience for passengers.

To make way for the new structure, contractors Alun Griffiths Ltd have removed 2,400 tonnes of demolition waste from the site. This has included:

  • 22 concrete slabs that formed the surface of the platform
  • 23 beams that supported the concrete platform slabs
  • 23 columns that supported the beams
  • The 150m long parapet wall that ran down the back of the platform

The demolition waste was separated on site, with steel being taken to recycling centres in Swansea and Bridgend, while concrete was taken to the Alun Griffiths Ltd recycling centre in Llanelli.

The first phase of construction is nearly complete, with 71 concrete piles being put into the ground to form the foundations of the new platform. Work has also started on the rebuilding of the two walls that run underneath the platform. Then using 42 tonnes of steel, a new frame will be put in place, which will support 179 concrete slabs to form the new platform surface. Finally, two waiting shelters, lighting and PA system will be installed.

Kevin Collins, project director for Wales at Network Rail said: “This new platform is a key part of the plans to modernise Swansea station, as it will be able to accommodate longer trains, with increased capacity and better facilities for passengers. I would like to thank the local community for their understanding during this period of disruption and look forward to it opening in May”

For safety reasons, some of the key bits of work need to be done at night and during weekends when the trains aren’t operating through the station. Every effort is being made to minimise disruption to the local community. The work is scheduled to be completed in May. Passengers are reminded to allow extra time to check for any platform alterations that may be in place.

Swansea is one of the first stations to undergo work as part of the Transport for Wales (TfW) improvement programme. Through their ‘Station Improvement Vision’, TfW are working to upgrade customer facilities, including improved ticket-buying facilities, refurbished space for use by local businesses and community groups, plus giving the station a new look.

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Hinatea Fonteneau, Head of Station Projects at Transport for Wales, said: “Improving stations and its services is a joint effort between all stakeholders involved and I’m delighted to see how these united forces come to visible fruition through close collaboration between Network Rail and Transport for Wales. The continuous communication between us all enable a safe management of our works, for an enhanced offer to our customers and communities.”

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David Bailey, Great Western Railway’s Customer Service Manager for South Wales, said: “The work to extend Platform 4 will provide additional access, especially for our Intercity Express Trains between Swansea and London Paddington. It will increase the number of platforms available and boost the operational capacity of this important station for all train services. This platform extension coupled with the station improvements that are also planned will ensure an even better customer experience.”

GWR is operating a reduced timetable during the latest national lockdown and customers should follow Government guidelines, only travelling for work if essential or for other legally permitted reasons. Find out more at GWR.com/Safety. Customers looking for further travel information can visit GWR.com/Upgrade


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Cardiff Airport

Aer Lingus restarts Cardiff to Belfast flights

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Through its partner Emerald Airlines, Irish airline Aer Lingus has restarted domestic UK flights between Belfast in Northern Ireland and Welsh capital, Cardiff.

Aer Lingus Regional operator, Emerald Airlines will link the two capital cities five times weekly from 7 July.

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Flights are now on sale and available to book at aerlingus.com, with fares starting from £39.99.

Emerald Airlines opened its base at Belfast City, just five minutes from the city centre, earlier this year. Cardiff’s inclusion in the airline’s latest expansion at the Welsh Government owned airport, which it says is great news for passengers wanting to re-unite with friends and family, fly for business and sports travel or explore Belfast on a city break.

“Thanks a million to Emerald Airlines for announcing that it will restart the critical connection between Cardiff and Belfast under the Aer Lingus banner,” said Marc Watkins, Aviation Development Manager at Cardiff Airport

“It’s great that our customers looking to fly between Wales and Northern Ireland no longer have to travel via England. The schedule and days of the week that flights are being operated are fantastic – whether you’re catching up with friends and relatives, needing to travel between the two cities for work, or for tourists visiting Belfast to enjoy the craic.”

With the recent opening of the highly anticipated Game of Thrones Studio Tour in nearby Banbridge, the timing of the start of the service could not be better. Other attractions in Belfast and the surrounding area include the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction and the natural beauty of the Giant’s Causeway near Coleraine.

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Commenting on the announcement, Ciarán Smith, Head of Commercial at Emerald Airlines said: “As we near the peak summer months, the launch of our Cardiff services will provide those travelling to Belfast with more choice when planning their holidays. When quick getaways are on the top of everyone’s mind, we are offering convenient timings and low fares, increasing connectivity to and from Northern Ireland.

“We are extremely pleased with the feedback we have received since beginning our operations from Belfast City Airport and believe Cardiff is a great new connection that will cater to both business and leisure travellers with direct, convenient and cost-effective flights to the Northern Irish capital.”

Flights from Cardiff to Belfast depart at 12.00pm on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week.

Flights from Belfast depart at 10.10am on the same days.

(Lead image: Cardiff Airport / Aer Lingus / Emerald Airlines)

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Great Western Railway

Severn Rail Tunnel to close for engineering works

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Trains that run through the Severn Tunnel between Bristol and South Wales will be affected as part of an ongoing programme of rail improvement work this July.

Network Rail say they will carry out essential track maintenance as well as testing the electrical power supply in the tunnel in July.

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The work will see more than two miles of track, sleepers and ballast (the stones on the railway) replaced to ensure the continued safe and reliable operation of the railway.

The new track will also enable the removal of a temporary 50mph speed restriction through the tunnel, improving passenger’s journeys and reducing the risk of infrastructure faults.

The track work will affect Great Western Railway services from Friday 1 to Sunday 10 July.

David Bailey, GWR’s customer service manager for South Wales, said: “The work inside the Severn Tunnel will support our train service in Wales, especially those trains running under electric power serving Cardiff Central and Newport.

“We will divert long-distance trains via an alternative route and provide road transport between Newport and Bristol Parkway to ensure customers can complete their journeys.”

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Trains between London and South Wales will use an alternative route between Swindon and Newport, stopping at Gloucester instead of Bristol Parkway.

A limited train service will still run between London Paddington and Bristol Parkway on weekdays only, otherwise they will travel via Bristol Temple Meads instead.

Buses will replace trains between Bristol Parkway and Newport, with customers advised to plan their journey beforehand.

In addition, buses will also replace trains at Lawrence Hill and Stapleton Road for Filton Abbey Wood or Bristol Parkway on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 July.

Follow-up engineering work is planned that will affect trains between Bristol and South Wales on Sunday 17 July and again on Sunday 14 August (until midday).

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Mark Dix, Project Manager at Network Rail, said: “The Severn Tunnel is a vital rail link for passengers travelling between Wales and England, so it is extremely important that we invest in its future.

“Once this work is finished, passengers travelling via Bristol Parkway will experience fewer delays with much more reliable journeys.

“I appreciate that this work is going to cause some disruption for passengers, so I would like to thank them in advance for their patience.”

(Lead image: Network Rail / GWR)

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Transport

£48m ‘gap funding’ support package for Welsh bus industry

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The bus industry in Wales is set to receive a support package worth £48m to help them recover from the impact of the pandemic and deal with emerging financial challenges, the Welsh Government has announced today.

The Bus Emergency package will provide ‘gap funding’ until the end of this financial year for bus operators to maintain the necessary bus services and routes in their area, in return for greater public control over Welsh bus services.

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This funding is one of a number of short-term measures that have been taken by the Welsh Government to support bus operators at a time when they needed it the most. With the longer-term future of the bus industry in mind a review of the existing Bus Services Support Grant (BSSG) scheme will also be taken to consider how it can be used to move the industry away from a reliance on emergency funding schemes and bridge the gap to franchising.

Announcing the latest emergency funding package, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for transport, Lee Waters said: “The bus industry is emerging from some of its toughest times, and we need to continue to provide support to help the industry recover and secure a healthy future.

“During the pandemic passenger numbers fell by around 90% and have still only returned to between 50% and 70% of pre-Covid levels, leaving operators struggling with reduced revenue and contending with the latest challenges of rising fuel and operating costs.

“The funding I’ve announced today will provide a short-term solution to help the industry to begin to recover from the challenges it has and continues to face whilst we develop a longer-term solution to tackle the gradual decline in passengers over the years.

“In March I set out our plans to bring forward legislation to change the way bus services are delivered across Wales. Throughout this process we will be working closely with local government, the bus industry and passengers, to design a system that is ‘easy to use, easy to access and well connected’ providing people a ‘real sustainable transport alternative’ to the private car.

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“We will provide an update on how these plans are progressing later this year.”

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