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Transport

Waterfall country park and ride service to launch this summer

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Neath Port Talbot Council is working in partnership with Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Powys County Council and local transport operator South Wales Transport to operate a Park and Ride service for visitors to Waterfall Country at Pontneddfechan this summer.

Starting at Lancaster Close Car Park in Glynneath, the service will run on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Monday from Saturday 17th July to Sunday 5th September 2021.

This year the service will also be free of charge with the aim of gathering visitor views on the future delivery model for the service.

The Waterfall Country Park and Ride is being run as a pilot project with the aim of establishing if the service can have a positive impact on the intense visitor parking pressures in nearby Pontneddfechan, one of the main starting points for walks in Waterfall Country.

Visitors will be able to catch the service from the Lancaster Close Car Park and designated bus stops between Glynneath and the Village Hall in Pontneddfechan.

It is hoped that in addition to parking at Lancaster Close, visitors will take time to explore the town of Glynneath and the many independent shops and cafes that operate in the town.

Waterfall Country is a hugely popular visitor destination which hosts a range of beautiful waterfalls. In recent years the small village of Pontneddfechan has seen a huge increase in visitors, leaving the local community unable to cope with the number of cars attempting to park in the village.

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Cllr Annette Wingrave, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development said:  “The residents of Pontneddfechan are rightly concerned about the impact  visitor traffic is having within their village. By working in partnership across the public sector we are aiming to test out new approaches, like the Park and Ride service, which can help in easing the pressures on residents of Pontneddfechan and in turn increase footfall within Glynneath.”

Stephanie Evans, Transition Director for the Brecon Beacons National Park, added: “The pilot Park and Ride Service is part of a range of measures which are being implemented by ourselves and our partners to ease the significant visitor pressures we are experiencing across Waterfall Country. We are asking visitors to work with us and be mindful of the impact they have on our local communities.’

The Park and Ride service is intended to supplement existing on-street parking arrangements and encourage visitors to park responsibly.

Further details on the Park and Ride service can be found on www.visitnpt.co.uk/waterfallsparkandride

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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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