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Neath Port Talbot

Green light for £150m Global Centre for Rail Excellence

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A planning application for the construction of a world class rail testing facility at the head of the Dulais and Tawe Valleys has been conditionally approved by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee.

The train, rail infrastructure and technology testing facility known as the Global Centre for Rail Excellence (GCRE), will provide a unique capability in the UK and Europe to support innovation in the UK and international rail industry, including the testing of cutting-edge, green technologies.

The Welsh Government has been working in partnership with Neath Port Talbot and Powys councils to develop proposals for the GCRE, which will be located on the site of the Nant Helen open cast mine operated by Celtic Energy and the Onllwyn Washery Distribution Centre.

Powys County Council will consider the planning application, submitted by the Welsh Ministers, later this week.

The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Ted Latham, said: “This is a fantastic investment in jobs and technology, not only for our valley areas but the County Borough and the South West Wales region as a whole.

“It will also showcase Neath Port Talbot on a national and global scale and has the strong potential to support wider investment and boost the economic regeneration of the area.”

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Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development, Cllr Annette Wingrave, added: “This will be a driver for the creation of high quality jobs in this area and it will also help to test and develop more environmentally friendly rail technologies helping us achieve our ambition of cleaner, stronger communities.”

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The GCRE, to be based at the Nant Helen Open Cast site and the Onllwyn Washery Distribution Centre, will cover an area of around 475 hectares and will consist of two looped test tracks, one being an electrified high speed rolling stock track (6.9km long) and the other being a low speed infrastructure test track (4.5km).

There will also be a dual platform test environment, operations and control offices, staff accommodation, shunter cabins and facilities for research and development, education and training.

Members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning committee which granted conditional approval of the GCRE on Tuesday, July27th, were told in a report the proposal had the full support of the council’s Economic Development Section.

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The report said: “The GCRE Offers an opportunity for significant rail investment in Wales. This would benefit Neath Port Talbot and Powys and complement the Transport for Wales focus and commitment to revitalising the rail network by providing new services and rolling stock (trains and carriages), innovative solutions and a significant programme of station investment.

“It will also support recovery post Covid – the UK Government having emphasised the importance of infrastructure spending to help kick-start the economy and ensure long-term economic recovery. It will also provide further opportunities for sustainable technologies associated with the rail sector (electric, battery, links to sustainable generation etc).

“With key innovation assets such as the Hydrogen Research Centre, Flexible Integrated Energy Systems (FLEXIS) and other academic innovation centres in the Neath Port Talbot area, the GCRE will provide key strategic RDI (research, development and innovation) linked opportunities for this form of economic development.”

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Cricket

Council leader welcomes news Glamorgan to bring first class cricket back to Neath

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The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Steve Hunt, has congratulated Neath Cricket Club on its success in attracting senior Glamorgan matches to its Gnoll Ground for the first time in more than 20 years.

On a visit the club’s ground, Cllr Hunt heard from Neath Cricket Club officials how first class facilities, pitch management and other factors led to Glamorgan staging two one day matches in Neath in August.

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Glamorgan will play Lancashire at the Gnoll on August 17th and two days later Hampshire will be the visitors to the Neath town centre ground.

Both matches, expected to draw big crowds, will be 50-over games and both are part of the Royal London Cup competition.

Cllr Hunt said: “It means a lot to have first class cricket played once again in the centre of Neath at the Gnoll – it really puts Neath on the map.

“I want to congratulate the team at Neath Cricket Club for achieving this success. It will bring big crowds into the centre of Neath where the building of the new Neath Leisure Centre has just been constructed.”

Glamorgan usually play their matches at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, however a limited number of matches are played at other Welsh grounds.

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Earlier this year the club announced that they would no longer play at Swansea’s St Helens ground due to the condition of the pitch and the poor operational infrastructure.

Announcing their fixtures at the beginning of the season, Glamorgan’s head of operations, Dan Cherry, said: “Regrettably, we are unable to play at St Helen’s this year, with the facilities no longer able to support the hosting of domestic cricket at the venue.”

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Carmarthenshire

Health boards warn of major computer system outage affecting 111 and out of hours GP services

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Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay University Health Boards have both issued a warning of a major computer outage that is that is used to refer patients from NHS 111 Wales to out-of-hours GP providers.

This system is used by Local Health Boards to coordinate services for patients. The health board say that the ongoing outage is significant and has been far reaching, impacting each of the four nations in the UK.

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Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay say that in response to the outage, health boards and their partners across Wales have developed and deployed plans so services can continue to operate.

They warn that the weekend will be a busier time than usual for NHS 111 Wales, and there are things that the public can do to help as work is done to resolve the issue.

Should the public continue to use 111?

Yes. As always, the public is encouraged to start with online help at 111.wales.nhs.uk where there is trusted health advice and information available, including more than 70 symptom checkers for many ailments and minor injuries.

What will be my experience if calling 111?

The weekend is a high demand period and processes have been put in place to continue to provide services. Capacity is being maximised by the Welsh Ambulance Service who answer 111 calls, and by Local Health Boards who provide the out-of-hours service. It may take longer for calls to be answered and we thank the public for their patience.

What can the public do to help?

Taking steps now to avoid needing to call 111 will #HelpUsHelpYou. If anyone has a medication concern, we encourage them to contact their GP today during working hours. If it is not an urgent concern, you can also speak to your local pharmacist about medications. You can find your GP and pharmacy opening hours at 111.wales.nhs.uk.

If you are calling 111 for health information, we ask people to think carefully about whether the enquiry is urgent. Remember that 111.wales.nhs.uk has lots of trusted health information and is a good source for many questions that you may have about common health concerns, chronic conditions, treatments, mental and physical health and much more.

The health boards say that people should consider the full range of options that are available to them in their local community which could include visiting your pharmacist for minor ailments and medicine matters.

They add that Ambulance and Emergency Departments remain very busy, and stress that it is still important to protect these services and they should continue to be used for life-threatening and serious emergencies only.

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(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Neath Port Talbot

The doctor will see you now: 21 new consultation rooms open at Neath Port Talbot Hospital

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Swansea Bay health board have announced an extra 21 consultation rooms have been opened in Neath Port Talbot Hospital’s outpatients department to help tackle its 56,000 patient waiting list backlog.

The move has seen the hospital’s Ward G, formerly a mental health ward for older people, undergo a refurbishment to transform the space into the additional outpatient facility.

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Mental health services for older people were recently transferred to Tonna Hospital, which the health board said meant Ward G became available for much-needed outpatient clinic use.

The new outpatient suite is located in a separate building, with its own entrance accessible from car parks, at the back of the hospital.

It will initially house urology and rheumatology clinics – alongside phlebotomy as soon as staff are in place. Eventually the health board hopes to cater for a wider range of outpatients including neuro rehab as well as supporting spinal, orthopaedics and gastro clinics.

The number of patients awaiting an outpatient appointment across Swansea Bay is at an all-time high, with over 56,000 patients waiting for a first appointment at the end of April 2022.

NPT Hospital staff survey one of the new consultation rooms (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

The pandemic has contributed to this volume because so many appointments have been restricted over the past two years. The health board has also repurposed a large proportion of the original Outpatient area in Morriston Hospital to support critical services through Covid-19.

The space is now being permanently used for unplanned, urgent care to treat more people quickly and effectively, in line with the Changing for the Future plans which include Morriston as the centre of excellence for urgent and emergency care.

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Inese Robotham, Swansea Bay’s Chief Operating Officer, said the move at Neath Port Talbot Hospital was part of a much bigger plan to tackle waiting lists. She explained:

“The move is part of our Recovery and Sustainability Plan which identifies a need to improve and transform the way we deliver outpatient services, harnessing digital technology and patient directed care to reduce waiting lists.

“However, there is still a requirement to see patients face to face and therefore, a number of projects to increase capacity are underway. These include the new outpatients facility in Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

“We are aiming to maximise outpatient potential, and are reviewing accommodation across the organisation to ensure maximum utilisation of space and care is delivered at the right place at the right time.”

Temporary signage points to the entrance of the new outpatients ward at the rear of the hospital (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Jessica Jones, a project manager for Swansea Bay’s transformation team, said that the work in Neath Port Talbot Hospital will help address growing waiting lists, with further improvements to come.

She said: “This does not fully re-instate the health board’s pre-Covid capacity but will significantly support specialties in delivering vital outpatient clinics. There are also plans to convert other areas to increase outpatient capacity following the implementation of the acute medical services redesign.

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“More than 40 outpatient clinic rooms were re-purposed for other uses as part of the Covid response, so the additional 21 rooms in Neath Port Talbot Hospital offer much needed capacity to help tackle the waiting list.”

(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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