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New metro plans could see street trams return to Swansea

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Transport for Wales have released details of their proposed Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro, and in addition to new stations and rail lines it could see the return of street trams to Swansea city centre.

The plans feature in a report published at the end of October from Transport for Wales that explain details of its new regional transport aspirations.

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The plans propose new train stations at Cockett and Landore on the South Wales Mainline.

It also proposes new stations on the Swansea District Line at Llandarcy, Winch Wen, Morriston, Felindre and Pontlliw for Services between Swansea, Neath and Pontarddulais.

A more radical new tram-train route between Swansea and Neath is outlined that will include a significant alignment of street running in the city centre. The route will also make partial use of existing freight routes through Swansea Docks.

Potential new stations include High Street, College Street, Strand, Port Tennant, Langdon Road in SA1, University Bay Campus, Jersey Marine, Llandarcy, Neath Abbey and Neath Riverside.

Map of proposed Metro Tram Train route between Swansea and Neath (Image: Transport for Wales / Capita)

A second route would see tram trains running between Llandarcy and Skewen along a section of restored railway.

If the plans come to fruition, it would be the first time trams have operated on Swansea streets since 1937.

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Trams previously ran from High Street to destinations across the city, including Sketty, Cwmbwrla, Morriston and Port Tennant. These were subsequently converted to trolley-bus operation, before eventually being absorbed into the regular bus network.

A tram running through Sketty

The last trams on the Mumbles railway stopped in January 1960.

Trams have seen a resurgence in popularity in the UK in recent years, with new lines opening in the West Midlands in 1999, South London in 2000, Nottingham in 2004 and Edinburgh in 2014.

A new tram system in Coventry is currently under construction, and due to open in 2023.

Four light rapid transit lines with some on-street running are also proposed for Cardiff as part of the metro plans there, with routes stretching as far as Hirwaun.

Strategic Development Programme Manager at transport for Wales, Ben George said: “We are pleased to have developed a series of proposals which will significantly improve the opportunities for rail travel within and beyond South West Wales. We look forward to working closely with the Local Authorities and Swansea Bay City Deal as we begin to develop these improvements over coming years.”

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Welsh Government Minister Lee Waters said: “Improving our public transport and active travel network routes is the right and responsible thing to do for the environment – making low carbon transport options more attractive, affordable, and easier to use – enabling people to leave their car at home particularly in the more densely populated parts of Wales linking up with active travel routes to provide door-to-door journeys in an integrated, sustainable transport network.”

(Lead image: Transport for Wales)

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Motoring

Swansea tops UK’s motorcycling hotspots in new survey

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New research has identified the UK’s motorbike capital cities and towns, and when including surrounding areas in the postcode, Swansea has come out top – with an incredible 3.92% of the nations motorcyclists settling here.

Hosting 141,782 riders, Swansea offers both shoreline and lush, green scenic routes so its hardly surprising that the city is the UK’s number one biker hotspot.

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The new research by Bikesure has named Wales as the third-highest biker hotspot in the UK, with 9,514 riders per 100,000 people.

To calculate Britain’s biker hot spots, Bikesure analysed the latest Department for Transport data to identify the number of licensed motorcyclists in the UK in 2021. This data was then broken down by region per 100,000 people, allowing Bikesure to pinpoint the top three locations that Britain’s bikers reside. 

Whilst expected in a post-Covid world that new bikers in the UK would rise due to lowered restrictions and the backlog of learners, Bikesure’s research shows biking within Britain has seen a sharp increase. 

In 2021, 36.9k new bikers were registered in the UK. With discussions around the need to address climate change increasing, the findings suggest a shift in the way Brits are travelling. The return of bikers was particularly prevalent in Wales, which boasted rider growth of 114% since 2020.

Wales also tops the list when it comes to the greatest number of urban bikers, with both Swansea (141,781 actual riders) and Llandudno (77,803 actual riders) making the top ten town and city hot spots list with 6% of all urban riders living in these locations. Wales also had 5% of the 38.6k newly registered motorcyclists in 2021, boasting 114% growth since 2020.

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Bikesure asked bikers in the UK’s hot spots what they felt their region offered to riders. They said:

  • The North East offers great rural riding experiences, as voted by 72% of bikers in this region.
  • Scottish riders feel a sense of camaraderie with 71% of riders rating the friendliness of other motorcyclists highly.
  • Welsh riders were happiest with the accessibility of garages to upkeep and maintain their motorcycles, as voted by 81% of bikers.

Looking at newly licensed riders, although there was a decline in 2020, presumably due to Covid, 2021 was a bumper year with 38.6k new bikers. Looking at demographics, 3.6k newly qualified motorcyclists were aged 20-29 years old, but 2021 also saw the highest number of riders aged 60-69 get their licence, with 911 registering in the first three quarters.

Most of these new bikers can be found in the South East, with Reading and Guilford revealed as the region’s most popular biker towns. There were 7.1k newly qualified motorcyclists in the South East region – a year-on-year increase of 86%.

Large jumps in the number of new riders were also seen in Greater London, the East Midlands and in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The East Midlands is in fact home to 30% of the top 10 cities for newly registered motorcyclists. Nottingham, Derby and Leicester in the East Midlands saw 2.5k new bikers licensed in 2021. As a region, it saw an 106% increase in riders, meaning it was also among the top three fastest growing regions year-on-year along with Wales, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

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Business

The Secret Hospitality Group provides enterprise education programme to three Swansea schools

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The Secret Hospitality Group is thanking the local community for its support during COVID by providing the Bumbles of Honeywood enterprise education programme to three local primary schools – The Grange Primary School, Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Llwynderw and Brynmill Primary School.

Created by Swansea-based 2B Enterprising Ltd, The Bumbles of Honeywood is a suite of bilingual resources mapped to the national curriculum to help primary schools embed enterprise skills into their day-to-day learning. It’s delivered in schools via the 2B Enterprising Corporate Engagement Partner programme, which pairs businesses with local schools.

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As Corporate Engagement Partners, members of The Secret Hospitality Group have been visiting The Grange, Llwynderw and Brynmill primary schools to introduce the Bumbles of Honeywood programme and talk to pupils about what it’s like to run a business.

Cultivating entrepreneurship and enterprise skills from a young age has been shown to be of huge value in equipping pupils for their future lives and careers – and it’s now required as part of the national curriculum in Wales.

The Secret Hospitality Group is an example of entrepreneurship in action. It started life in 2017 with one venue, The Optimist in Uplands. In 2019 the company won the tender to run The Secret on Swansea seafront, and since then it has also taken on The Green Room next to Swansea Arena and the iconic Castellamare restaurant at Bracelet Bay.

Now the group has sold The Optimist to focus on landmark locations, creating venues that are as memorable as the views. As the company’s strapline says, “the view is just a bonus.”

The company was founded by brother and sister Lucy and Ryan Hole, who have since been joined by their siblings Amy and Tom. During the COVID lockdowns the team ran a coffee kiosk on the seafront in Swansea and the experience made them feel even more connected with the local community. Now they want to give something back by supporting three local schools.

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“Opening the kiosk was a turning point for us during the pandemic,” says Lucy. “We had such a great response from the community, and they rallied round when the kiosk was vandalised. The kiosk became a real hub and the beach just became alive. Now we want to give back to the community as a thank you for what they did for us during that hard time.”

Lucy and her siblings have chosen to support The Grange, Llwynderw and Brynmill primary schools because they are local to them and they have family links with two of them.

All the Hole siblings attended Brynmill Primary School, as did their father Greg Hole, who has run local news agents including Uplands News for decades. His father and grandfather, who ran the businesses before him, also attended Brynmill Primary School.

“We grew up in Uplands and used to walk through Brynmill Park to get to the school,” says Lucy. “We have really fond memories of the school, and all the teachers knew who we were because generations of the family had been there. It was a lovely school.”

Amy’s children attend The Grange Primary School and the family decided to also support Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Llwynderw to help bring The Bumbles of Honeywood to a local Welsh medium school too.

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The Hole siblings have gone into each school to meet with the children, talk about their businesses and introduce the Bumbles of Honeywood programme. They have also welcomed children to their businesses so they can learn more about how restaurants are run.

“The children were great,” says Lucy. “They wanted to learn and asked a lot of good questions. They were eager to learn the skills taught by the Bumbles of Honeywood programme: to be confident, brave, kind and strong.”

She and Ryan also enjoyed being able to demonstrate that there are many different paths to forging a successful career: it doesn’t have to include going to university.

“We didn’t excel at school, but I think making pupils aware of the different routes they can take is really important,” says Lucy.

2B Enterprising founder Sue Poole, welcomes their contribution.

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“It’s really important for the children to meet and talk to homegrown talent,” she says. “Lucy and her sister and brothers are local entrepreneurs who show the children what you can achieve if you work hard and support each other.

“It’s about the support you have from your family, your community, with everybody working together, businesses will succeed.

“The Secret Hospitality Group is a young company that started off with one small restaurant in the Uplands and is now opening iconic venues right across Swansea Bay.

“It’s exciting from that perspective, and because of the history of the family, who have been entrepreneurial for probably over 100 years, I think they’re really great role models for young people.”

Lead image: Children from The Grange Primary School visit Castellamare with (L-R) Lucy Hole, The Secret Hospitality Group, Abigail Cooper, Operations Co-ordinator, 2B Enterprising, Mrs Tucker, Teaching Assistant, Ms Suff, Teacher, Mrs Minty, Year 1 & Year 2 Teacher and Mrs Griffiths, Year 1 & Year 2 Teaching Assistant.

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Business

Duo of award wins for Swansea-headquartered Uplands Communications

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Long-established telephony and IT specialist, Uplands Communications, is celebrating a pair of wins at the prestigious Mobile News Awards 2022, where the firm was recognised in the Customer Service and the Reseller with Under 50 Employees categories. 

The firm, which has a 40-plus year history in Swansea, and opened a second office in Somerset this year, was up against some of the biggest names in the mobile industry, going head-to-head with multi billion pound network, EE, in the 5G Application category.

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Paul Hooper, Uplands MD, said: “We are delighted to come home from the Mobile News Awards with two awards and we are particularly pleased that one of these categories is for Best Customer Service.

“These past two years of global disruption for business and for consumers has taught us all how vital it is for firms of all kinds and across all sectors to provide the best quality customer care they can, in order to retain valued custom.

“A very large part of our role as telephony and IT providers is to support our customers with their communications systems, so they are easily accessible and so their interface with their customers and clients is as seamless as possible. 

“Our customers have relied particularly heavily upon us in recent years for this. We were pleased that, when awarding us in the Best B2B Reseller, the judges recognised the fact that, as a relatively small firm, we nonetheless have the expertise to serve everything from multi-million pound concerns to thriving small businesses, while maintaining the kind of small-firm ethos that sees us offer a truly tailored service.

“Being commended in the 5G category is pleasing, too, since this is a service that businesses across the board are getting to grips with and are looking to help them future-proof their operations. Again, Uplands is competing with a field of big-hitters in this field and we are proving to be a great choice to provide this service for our customers.” 

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The Mobile News Awards went ahead in London on Thursday 19 May, with 600 mobile industry guests. Uplands Communications is a leading managed services company delivering flexible voice, data and mobile communications.  

The firm specialises in independent network management and providing bespoke, converged solutions that aren’t tied to technology and supplier. 

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