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Carmarthenshire

‘Environmental disaster averted’ as railway reopens at site of diesel freight derailment

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The railway through Llangennech has reopened for the first time in six months, following one of the biggest environmental recovery efforts Network Rail has ever been involved with.

The southern end of the Heart of Wales line, which runs from Shrewsbury to Swansea, has been closed since August 2020, after a freight train, pulling 25 wagons, derailed while passing the small, Carmarthenshire village. The devastation to follow saw the train wagons catching fire before around 350,000 litres of diesel spilled into the ground, causing major concern for the surrounding wildlife conservation area and waterways. 

Since then, ground teams from Network Rail, Natural Resources Wales, Adler and Allan and partner agencies have put in a total 37,500 hours of work to protect the local environment, remove the huge wagons from the site and repair a large stretch of damaged railway. 

30,000 tonnes of contaminated soil have been excavated from 150 metres of railway, at a depth of two metres and width of 20 metres. That soil has been replaced with new, clean material from quarries in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, with the fuel-soaked soil taken to a licensed waste management facility in Merthyr.  

In the final few weeks of the recovery, Network Rail worked to fit around 530 metres of brand-new track before reinstalling the signalling, damaged in the fire. 

Freight services started back on the railway line through Llangennech late on Friday 5 March, with passenger services starting up again on Monday 8 March, although Transport for Wales is currently operating a reduced timetable, due to Covid.

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Bill Kelly, Network Rail Wales route director, said:  “I am delighted that we have reached the final stages of our work to reinstate the railway following one of the biggest environmental recovery operations Network Rail has ever been involved with.  

“It is thanks to our quick-thinking frontline teams, along with our partner agencies, that the fuel spill was able to be contained so swiftly, allowing us to prevent what could have been a total environmental disaster. 

“Our teams have worked non-stop for the past six months and their dedication has paid off.  

“We can confidently say the measures we have taken will protect the local environment for generations to come.” 

Natural Resources Wales, who compared the scale of the incident to the Sea Empress disaster, of 1996, will continue to monitor the shellfish and wider environment over the coming months. 

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The aftermath of the train derailment at Llangennech (Image: Natural Resources Wales)

Martyn Evans, Chair of the Recovery Coordination Group, Natural Resources Wales, said: “The re-opening of the railway line at Llangennech is a huge milestone in what has been a complex, challenging and ultimately successful recovery operation at a location of international environmental significance, coordinated by Natural Resources Wales. 

“A wide range of partners have shown brilliant teamwork in working together to overcome many challenges and reduce these impacts through a Recovery Coordination and Tactical Group operating within the framework of the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum.  

“There have been far-reaching impacts on the environment – on land and in the sea, the community of Llangennech, local businesses, particularly the shellfisheries, tourism and industry. Happily, most of these impacts have now been overcome and activities restored, although our work and support for some of these groups is on-going.”

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Alexia Course, Transport Operations Director at Transport for Wales, said:  “The reopening of the railway line through Llangennech is fantastic news for the local community and we look forward to welcoming passengers back onto TfW services.  

“It has taken a tremendous amount of work from all involved and is an example of the strong collaboration between TfW, Network Rail and a wide range of partner agencies.  

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“While we are pleased to mark this important milestone, passengers are reminded public transport is currently open for essential travel only and a reduced COVID-19 timetable is in place across the network.  

“Further improvement work is also taking place on the northern section of the Heart of Wales line and passengers are advised to check before travelling as rail replacement services are in operation from Llanwrtyd Wells running north from 6 March 2021.” 

Some of the rail replacement work at Llangennech (Image: Network Rail)

Lee Waters MS, Llanelli, said: “When we first visited the site after the derailment it was like a disaster movie but each time I have revisited since, it has been clear to see the amount of effort that has gone into saving the environment and reinstating the railway.  

“I have been very pleased with the constant stream of communication Network Rail has delivered to everyone in the local community, over the past six months. 

“It is great to have this railway line back up and running again for passengers as we prepare to reopen the economy in time for Easter and Summer.” 

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Nia Griffith MP, Llanelli, said: “It has been really impressive to see the way in which the agencies have worked together to undertake the enormous task of clearing the wreckage, taking away tonnes and tonnes of contaminated soil, doing restoration work and building up the railway from deep foundations to the state-of-the-art track and junction, that I have just been privileged to see.  

“I would like to say a huge thank you to all involved for being out in all weathers throughout the winter months to get this work done. When we come out of lockdown, I very much look forward to travelling along the line again.”      

Heart of Wales line at Knighton (Image: Transport for Wales)

David Edwards, Chair of the Heart of Wales Line Development Co Ltd, said: “We are delighted that our much-loved rural railway will once again be open. When the current travel restrictions are lifted, we are sure that many people will enjoy a trip on the line, will visit the charming rural communities that it serves, and will take the opportunity to explore the Heart of Wales Line Walking Trail.  

“To enable the reopening to occur, a huge amount of engineering and other specialist work has been carried out by Network Rail and others, and we pay tribute to their efforts, often in challenging weather conditions” 

The ongoing investigation into the cause of the freight train derailment is being led by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch. 


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Ammanford

Man who filmed rape on Ammanford victim’s phone changes plea mid trial

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A man who filmed himself raping an Ammanford woman on his victim’s phone has changed his plea to guilty midway through his trial.

Cameron Hassan, aged 31, of no fixed abode, attacked the woman, raping her as she slept on 21 August 2021.

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Hassan had been on trial at Swansea Crown Court after denying any wrongdoing. However, after the jury was shown the video of the attack and hearing the victim was going to give evidence yesterday (Tuesday, 10 May), Hassan changed his plea to guilty.

Investigating Officer DC Sophie Lambert from Dyfed Powys Police said the victim had shown great strength and determination throughout the investigation.

“I must commend her tremendous courage in coming forward and the tenacity shown throughout the investigation,” she said.

“We hope this case demonstrates that Dyfed-Powys Police acts on serious allegations such as rape and sexual assault with officers working tirelessly to secure justice for victims.

“If you are suffering because of similar abuse, please contact the police, or if you would rather speak to someone in confidence, New Pathways are an independent charity that will support you through every step of the investigation.”

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New Pathways can be contacted at 01685 379 310 or email enquiries@newpathways.org.uk

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Carmarthenshire

Women’s Tour of Britain returns to Carmarthenshire

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The countdown is on before the world’s top women riders will race through Carmarthenshire as part of the Women’s Tour of Britain.

Some 108 cyclists will race through the County to the finishing line on top of the Black Mountain between Llangadog and Brynamman as part of the stage five event on Friday, June 10.

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The route will be starting from Pembrey Country Park at 10.45am and riders competing for the title will go through Pinged, Carway, Pontyberem, Horeb, Llansawel, and Llangadog.

A rolling road closure will take place along the 65-mile route which will come into action at 10.45am until 1.50pm.

Roads will be re-opened once the cyclists have passed through. A full road closure will be in place over the Black Mountain from 5am-5pm.

The event will be broadcast on ITV4 and across Europe with a helicopter camera crew following the race.

The Women’s Tour departs on Monday, June 6, and coincides with the final day of a four-day Bank Holiday weekend in the UK to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The race will culminate with a prestigious finale six days later on Saturday, June 11.

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Pembrey Country Park previously hosted the Grand Départ of the men’s Tour of Britain as well as the overall finish of the Women’s Tour in 2019.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters said: “We are thrilled that we have again been chosen to host this top cycling event. Previous years have brought an immediate economic boost to the tourism sector as well as providing a great deal of positive media coverage.”

(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Dyfed Powys Police

Man banned from driving for 12 months for fishing offence

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A man from Merthyr Tydfil who travelled to the River Loughor, near Llanelli to fish using a barbaric and illegal method, has been banned from driving for 12 months as part of his sentence.

Vu Quang Tien pleaded guilty to an illegal fishing charge and also to a charge of obstruction of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Fisheries Enforcement Officer on 26 April at Swansea Magistrates Court.

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Mr Tien and two other anglers were witnessed by NRW Fisheries Enforcement Officers deliberately using the illegal foul hooking method of fishing – also known as snatching – at the river Loughor on 15 August 2021. NRW officers attended the site after several reports of illegal fishing were made to NRW’s 24/7 incident call centre by concerned members of the community.

When approached and questioned by NRW officers, Mr Tien and his accomplices showed significant hostility and reluctance to share identification documents which eventually had to be extracted by use of reasonable force.

All of Mr Tien’s fishing tackle and fish, along with his associates’ fishing tackle was seized by NRW Officers at the time of the incident. The district judge on the day at Swansea Magistrates Court gave permission to NRW to confiscate these items permanently from each of them.

The District Judge disqualified Mr Tien from driving for 12 months due to seriousness of the incident, and the premeditated and deliberate action of travelling such a distance to commit the offence.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £2,334 in fines, NRW costs and a victim surcharge.

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Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “We would like to again thank Dyfed Powys Police, the local communities and also the law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities.

“Foul hooking is a truly barbaric form of fishing carried out by a small minority of anglers in Wales, who have no regard for fish welfare.

“NRW and the Police take these incidents seriously as do the courts.

“Hopefully, the small minority of anglers who may in future, think of using any illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines and driving ban in this case issued by the courts.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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