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Welsh Health Minister banned from driving after speeding

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Welsh Government Health Minister, Eluned Morgan MS has been banned from driving after accumulating too many points on her licence for speeding.

Ms Morgan’s latest offence took place when she was caught driving too quickly in a 30mph zone in Wrexham.

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She was disqualified from driving for six months at a hearing in Mold Magistrates Court on Wednesday (16 March).

In a written statement to court Ms Morgan said: “This is not something I am proud of and I apologise unreservedly,”

Ms Morgan is the Labour Senedd member for the Mid and West Wales region. She is also a member of the House of Lords with the title Baroness Morgan. She was previously a member of the European Parliament.

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Second jobs and side hustles behind surge in taxi driver numbers

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The pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis has been tough on taxi drivers over the last couple of years, as households feel the pinch and rein in social nights out. 

However, the number of taxi drivers is actually on the rise with a surge in new drivers, likely as a result of many families adding side hustles and second jobs to help cope with rising energy and grocery bills.

Taxi data from one of the UK’s largest price comparison websites, Quotezone.co.uk, found that the number of taxi drivers is up 12% from January to May 2022, when compared to the same time period in 2021. 

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The most common taxi driver is still those that have held their taxi badge for over 10 years, however new drivers that have held their taxi badge for under 6 months, is up by a staggering 390%.

Interestingly, Uber drivers make up 48% of all taxi drivers in the UK – with a surge of 54% since the start of the year.

Quotezone.co.uk data compares January to May 2021 against January to May 2022 – using a sample size of over 45,000 taxi insurance policies across the UK.

Greg Wilson, price comparison expert and Founder of Quotezone.co.uk, comments: “It’s not surprising that new taxi driver numbers are soaring, the flexible working hours and relative ease of set up makes it the ideal side hustle for those looking to fit more working hours around their existing job or family commitments, to help combat rising household costs.

“Taxi insurance premiums can be costly though, as insurance providers consider cab drivers a higher risk because of the greater amount of time they spend on the roads compared to other drivers, but our site can help customers compare policies and keep costs competitive.”

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There was no movement amongst the choice of taxis this year, understandable given waiting lists for new cars are, in some cases, now over a year long. 

Interestingly the UK-wide top taxi choice is a hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius – with no change to the top five most popular makes and models – revealed as the Toyota Prius, Mercedes-Benz E220, Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Passat and the Ford Mondeo, in that order.

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Council to invest in a bigger green fleet

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Swansea Council’s plans to operate a new generation of electric vehicles are heading for the fast lane.

The council already operates 60 electric vehicles and 25 more are coming in the next few months.

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And now 16 mechanics in its transport team have been trained-up to keep the vehicles on the road.

Swansea Council is replacing older diesel vehicles in the fleet and is among its major policy commitments to be a zero carbon council by 2030. The light commercial fleet is expected to be fully electric by 2025, with the whole remainder – including waste and recycling vehicles – to be ultra-low emission by 2030.

Andrea Lewis, Joint Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Service Transformation, said the move towards training the council’s transport unit mechanics in electric vehicle repair and maintenance was setting an example to others and demonstrating its commitment to a zero carbon future.

She said: “We’ve been urging other organisations in Swansea to join us in aiming for a zero carbon Swansea by 2050. The council aims to get there by 2030. Our fleet of around 800 vehicles will be electric or ultra-low emission by 2030 as part of our pledge to do more – and do it as quickly as possible – to protect our environment from climate change.

“Our training investment in our CTU team also demonstrates how action to tackle climate change can create and protect jobs in our communities.”

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The council worked with Gower College Swansea to set up the mechanics’ training course and they are now inviting other businesses across the city to take advantage and join the course as well.

Mark Barrow, Fleet Manager at the council, said the 16 mechanics training provided by Gower College Swansea with the support of the Unite union, was an investment in the team’s future.

He said: “Up to now we’ve had to send our electric vehicles to an outside contractor for repairs and maintenance. Thanks to the training the team have had we’ll be able to bring that work in-house.

“It’s an important step for the team and recognition of their commitment and their continuing future role at the council. It also builds resilience into the service provided by the CTU because it means we don’t any longer have to rely on outside support to maintain any of our vehicles.

“By getting all the training in place for the team now before all the new electric vehicles come into service, we’ll be well ahead of the learning curve.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Swansea firm urges UK haulage and transport firms to tell EU roaming charges to hit the road

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Britain’s road hauliers are among a fleet of UK industry sectors facing surging mobile roaming charges, since they have been reintroduced across Europe this month.

A Swansea-based mobile industry expert is urging them to tell these charges to hit to road, by making a savvy switch.

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Paul Hooper, MD of Swansea-based Uplands Mobiles, says: “The road haulage and transport industry is worth £124Bn GVA (Gross Value Added) to the UK economy, with 493,600 commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes registered in the UK. It is, of course, an industry already under the cosh thanks to the multiple challenges of soaring fuel prices, a driver shortage and increased red tape when crossing from Britain to the EU.

“Now, firms that work within the EU and need to communicate with their drivers and other teams remotely face the added burden of new EU roaming charges. This will have a real impact on the bottom line of many haulage and transportation firms.

“Many of these firms are telling these EU roaming charges to hit the road by switching to O2, which has kept the service free. We are an O2 Direct Partner, so we are helping a number of firms make the switch.”

Uplands customer CJBird Transport, a family-run firm is based in Llantrisant, South Wales, has just renewed its contract with Uplands, and cost was a key factor in this decision.

Lisa Bird, Company Director at the firm, said: “We have just resigned with Uplands for another term, because their service is great, and they have reduced our costs again. With a significant proportion of our fleet operating in the EU, along with the recent EU roaming charges increase on the Vodafone and EE networks, we simply could not consider a move away from the O2 network.”

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Paul adds: “Free data roaming in the EU is an integral part of O2 tariffs, so data (subject to roaming limit), minutes, text and data allowances will work in the Europe Zone, just like they do at home. O2 users can roam using their phone across 48 destinations and call and text back to the UK at no extra cost. The O2 Europe Zone includes all EU/EAA countries and the Channel Islands, Switzerland and Monaco.”

If your UK monthly data allowance is over 25GB, you’ll have a Roaming Limit of 25GB when roaming in the Europe Zone. This means you can use up to 25GB of your allowance at no extra cost – O2 will text you if you’re getting close to the limit, and again if you reach it. You can still use data if you reach our Roaming Limit, but you’ll be charged at £2.50/GB.

By contrast, as of January 2022, Vodafone UK charges customers with monthly plans started after August 11 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU.  Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland. From March 3 2022, EE charges £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7, 2021. Three UK announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland. The charge applies from May 23, 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1 2021.

Uplands Mobiles, based at Swansea Enterprise Park,  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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