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Agreement to deliver better and more integrated bus services signed by Welsh Government and transport operators

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Leading figures in the public sector and the bus industry have signed a new agreement to deliver better bus services that meet the objective of an integrated transport system.

Included with this agreement is an additional £37.2m of funding to continue to support the bus industry in the coming financial year. This will give further reassurance to operators, enabling them to plan for the future.

The agreement has been signed by bus operators, local authorities, Transport for Wales and the Welsh Government.

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, commented: “This agreement puts the public interest at the heart of our bus network. Working closer together will enable a fundamental reshaping of local bus services, better meeting the needs of passengers.

“The challenges of coronavirus, climate change and changing working patterns mean we have to do things differently. We’ve committed significant public funding to support bus services and it’s only right this leads to improvements for passengers.

“I’ve been pleased to see the positive response of the industry so far and look forward to working in close partnership to create more accessible routes and services. A sustainable future for our transport network means public transport being a convenient option for more people as we develop alternatives to the car.”

Under the terms of the agreement operators will be required to provide bus services that meet local needs. It will seek to ensure everyone works together to support the recovery of the whole network. Priorities will include supporting learners’ journeys to school, increasing services in situations where demand exceeds capacity, and supporting economic recovery.

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The agreement will also support integration across transport modes through things like smart ticketing and integrated timetabling. It will provide a framework for closer partnership working between the public sector and bus operators.

Joshua Miles, CPT Cymru Director, said: “The Bus Emergency Scheme (BES) partnership is good news for bus passengers throughout Wales. It sets up a clear mechanism by which BES partners will support passengers back on to public transport with confidence as restrictions are lifted.

“Through BES all partners may now work closely together to build back better for the future. The commitment towards developing bus priority measures, enhanced ticketing solutions and vehicle initiatives will be crucial in reducing congestion and the transition towards zero emission vehicles.

“Travel by bus is an important part of getting our lives back to normality. The BES partnership will help the nation recover from Covid-19 and drive further improvements for bus passengers in Wales.”

Scott Pearson, Chair of CaBAC – Coach and Bus Operators Cymru, representing the SME operators in Wales – said: “We are pleased to have played a full part in the discussions on the future of the bus industry in Wales leading to this agreement. Building on the support from the Government over the past twelve months, our members will now want to work with our partners in the Government, TfW and Local Authorities to secure and improve passenger services across Wales.”

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Councillor Andrew Morgan, WLGA Leader said: “Welsh Government, TfW, local authorities and bus operators have been working together constructively to sustain a level of service throughout the pandemic. This agreement stems from this close partnership work. It provides a foundation for us all now in seeking to rebuild patronage, encouraging increasing numbers to use public transport over time for a wide range of journeys, as conditions permit.”


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Transport for Wales

New trains for Wales and Borders services go on show

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Brand new trains that aim to transform services across Wales and the English borders have been on show today at Chester railway station.

Assembled by CAF at their factory in Newport, the first Class 197 train with its ‘Made in Wales’ tag was revealed to the public today (Friday 1 July), offering a taste of what’s to come for customers in the next few months.

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TfW are spending £800 million on new trains throughout their network and the Class 197 will be the first of the brand-new stock to enter service in North Wales before the end of this year.

Providing an increase in capacity, reduced emissions and enhanced comfort onboard, these trains will allow TfW to run faster and more frequent services to key routes including services in South West Wales – Manchester to Milford Haven, Cardiff to Fishguard and Swansea to Pembroke Dock.

Offering leather seats, modern air conditioning systems, wider doors and customer information screens, the new trains will transform the customer experience. They’ve also been fitted with electronic charging points and disability features for those with limited mobility.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “I am pleased to welcome the new Class 197 trains to the rail network. These new vehicles represent a real transformational improvement on the trains that they will be replacing, providing comfortable and frequent services, encouraging people to leave their cars behind and move onto a more sustainable form of transport.”

Alexia Course, TfW’s Director of Transport Operations, said: “At Transport for Wales we’re continually moving forward with our transformational plans to improve public transport for the people of Wales and the borders.

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“The Class 197s on show at Chester railway station today will be an important part of the transformation of the Wales and Borders network, and when they enter service, they will enable us to run more services and carry more customers in comfort.

“The construction of our new trains has been four years in the making, and customers and colleagues are incredibly excited to welcome passengers onto them from later this year.

“It’s also important to recognise that these trains have been made in Wales at the CAF factory in Newport and the building of them has provided jobs and supported the local economy”.

Richard Garner, UK Director CAF said: “CAF is thrilled that the first of our Class 197 trains for the Wales and Borders network has been officially launched.

“We are immensely proud of our key role in delivering Transport for Wales’ vision to transform rail travel for passengers.

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“The manufacture of our trains is taking place at our state-of-the-art facility in Newport, South Wales. We see ourselves as a local manufacturer, supporting highly skilled jobs and bringing employment opportunities to the local area whilst focusing on sustainability issues and addressing the needs of the Welsh economy.

Our trains are being built in Wales to serve the Welsh communities”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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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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