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Llanelli AM sets out bold metro vision for west Wales

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SHOULD the Swansea Bay area have its own driver-less metro system?

That is the view of Llanelli Assembly Member Lee Waters, who appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show this week (Mar 18),

Lee Waters outlined his vision for the world’s first fully automated metro system, and he says it should serve our local area.

Interviewed by Arwyn Jones earlier today, Mr Waters said: “The key for getting people to replace car journeys with public transport is having what we call a turn up and go public transport system. And that’s clearly not the case in Wales. In parts of Llanelli, the last bus leaves at 4pm – you’re just not going to persuade people to give up their cars under those circumstances. The question then is, how can we realistically create a turn up and go public transport system in Swansea Bay?

“We need to think imaginatively.

“The UK government expect automated vehicles to be on sale in three years time. This is happening quickly. Let’s not try and create a Manchester or a Sheffield type tram system – we’re thirty years behind the curve on that. Let’s try and leapfrog and establish the Swansea Bay Region as a test bed for this new technology.”

The driver-less system proposed by Lee Waters would employ fast-emerging technologies, including driver-less, low carbon bus transit systems. Maps and timetables would be replaced with public transport apps, with vehicles ‘learning’ over the time the most efficient routes to take. And door-to-door services could even feature.

Cautioning against a carbon-copy of the Cardiff and the Valleys Metro, the Llanelli AM called on those tasked with drafting the initial plan to match the boldness of the Swansea Bay City Region bid.

 “The Cardiff and Valleys Metro is moving very slowly, because it’s so complex. For the next five years, you’re not going to see many additional services because of the time it takes to convert track to light rail. All prerequisites to getting a rail system working in a different way. I think what driver-less technology offers us, is a chance to not bother with that and instead having these car-sharing, lift-sharing pods taking us where we want to go.”

Similar plan: A driver-less metro system proposed for Moscow

The Welsh Government have recently agreed to fund the development of a ‘strategic outline case’ for improving public transport provision across the region. The budget allocation is the first step in deciding whether or not to pursue the 10-20 year vision for a Swansea Bay Metro.

Mr Waters welcomed the funding provision, but warned against fixating on journey time savings to London – stating:

 “There’s a broader economic point to this – I don’t want Llanelli and the Swansea Bay area to be a commuting pad to Cardiff. Instead of sending people out of our area, we need a public transport system that creates viable and vibrant communities.”

 In appealing for an ambitious approach to be taken, the Assembly Member contended: “For too long we’ve played catch up. We take ages, and too often the result is pretty shoddy.

 “So let’s not do that again. We’re starting from an almost blank sheet of paper, let’s go straight to the future solution.

 “This change is happening at pace and we need to be all over it.”

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Share experiences of sexual harassment to help police

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PEOPLE who have been subject to sexual harassment are encouraged to share their experiences to help understand the scale of the problem in communities across Wales.

Dyfed-Powys Police is taking part in a country-wide campaign, which urges anyone who has been subject to sexual harassment to say when and where the incident took place, as well as how it made them feel, anonymously through an online survey.

The results will be used to challenge and change the culture of misogyny and sexual harassment, so people can feel safe to live their lives without fear of harassment.

Dyfed-Powys Police Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “Sexual harassment is simply unacceptable – it doesn’t matter who it comes from or where it happens, it should not be tolerated by anyone in society.

“We are committed to making sure everybody feels safe in their community, and has the freedom to make life choices without fear of sexual harassment. We want people to be able to access every area of society with confidence, from sports facilities and workplaces, to public transport or pubs and clubs.

“By taking part in this survey, you will help us to understand the scale of the problem in communities across Dyfed-Powys Police, which will enable us to listen to those affected by sexual harassment and to make a real difference in the future.”

To take part in the survey, visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SWPCOM

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Proposed salmon byelaws to be postponed until 2019

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NEW fishing byelaws have been proposed which will make it mandatory for fishermen to release all salmon caught in Welsh rivers.

The procedures for introducing new byelaws are protracted and Natural Resources Wales wishes to avoid uncertainty for fishermen by delaying implementation of approved new measures until the 2019 fishing season.

The proposed all Wales byelaws, which include restrictions on fishing methods to help the survival of released fish and reduced net fishing seasons, are currently being considered by Welsh Government.

Dave Mee, Senior Fisheries Advisor for NRW, said: “At the moment timescales for a decision are uncertain, so we are proposing that introduction of any new measures should be postponed until the beginning of the 2019 rod and net seasons.

“We hope this will help clarify the situation for anglers, netsmen, fishery owners and clubs and associations.”

Welsh salmon stocks remain in a perilous condition. Although the mandatory catch and release proposals have proved unpopular with anglers, NRW firmly believes that they, along with other measures such as tackling agricultural pollution, improving water quality and managing the potential threats from predators are vital for the future survival of these iconic fish.

Peter Gough, Principal Fisheries Advisor for NRW added: “This delay is a pragmatic solution to resolving current uncertainty.

“However, it is important to note that this does not mean there will be further debate on the subject as NRW has concluded its position and the case for further controls has been made and presented to Welsh Government and it remains unchanged.

“Protection of the breeding resources of these wonderful fish is a fundamental part of our work to manage this important natural resource sustainably.”

This season, fishermen are again being asked by NRW to practice full restraint and ensure conservation of fish stocks by voluntarily releasing all the salmon they catch in 2018.

Dave explained: “Our salmon stocks are in serious trouble and have fallen to historically low levels and the same is true of about half of our sea trout stocks.

“Neither species can sustain uncontrolled killing of fish and so we are again asking all anglers to release all of their salmon.

“Most anglers are already voluntarily releasing the fish they catch, but some are not. We feel the situation is now so serious for salmon that we must ask all anglers to help preserve as many fish as possible by returning all their salmon.

“It’s also very important to take great care of returned fish. Fishing methods and tackle should be used that ensure fish have a high probability of survival, they should always be kept in the water while unhooking to ensure they can swim away strongly.”

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Don’t be a Bystander campaign launches

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Live fear free: From the Don't Be A Bystander film

A NEW campaign to show how important a positive intervention can be for someone experiencing or who has experienced violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence launches today in Wales with a powerful short film featuring the words of survivors.

Leader of the House and Chief Whip Julie James will meet survivors to talk about their experiences and how the actions of those people around them can make a difference.

Julie James said:

“We want to encourage everyone to act, to do something, however small or simple when they are worried that someone they know is, or may be experiencing violence, abuse or sexual violence.

“Just the very act of asking someone “are you ok?” can have a huge impact.

“We do not advocate stepping in and intervening in a potentially dangerous situation or where people could get hurt – please call the police in this situation.

“We want to create a culture where people feel empowered to help prevent violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence and to make Wales the safest place to be a woman.”

The campaign film encourages everyone to support someone they are worried about and signposts them to the Live Fear Free helpline and website. The campaign also includes a short film which explains what happens when you call the helpline as a concerned person.

Mary* is a survivor of domestic abuse; her colleagues had noticed her behaviour change and one sat her down to say “that’s one bruise too many”. Mary’s neighbours had suspicions and became involved when her daughter went to them for help.

They brought Mary into their home and she accepted their offer to ring the police. Only then did she realise that a number of her neighbours had suspected something was wrong. Her partner was arrested that night and her life changed.

Mary said:

“Suddenly I didn’t feel alone. People asked “are you ok?” and “how can we help?” and I felt that I could answer. I’m not sure I would have felt safe enough to answer before but hope that I would have at some point.

“I know I had been relieved when my colleague had asked, even though I didn’t feel able to speak to them about what was happening.

“What I would say to people who suspect things are not right with a family member, friend, colleague or neighbour, is trust your instinct, ask them if they’re ok and keep asking, it may not be the right time for them to speak to you when you ask that first time, but your words could be the glimmer of hope that leads to a life being saved.”

Sarah* grew up in Nigeria, where Female Genital Mutilation is common in her community. The traditional beliefs and practices were so instilled that it was something that every girl endured. Crucially, Sarah did not know that the practice was called FGM.

When her midwife asked her if she had been subjected to it, she said:

“I was confused and got upset and angry, it wasn’t what I was expecting, in our culture women who are not cut are seen as unclean. I tried to walk away and as I did I was asked by the receptionist, “are you ok?”. Thankfully she helped me to calm down as I realised that I wanted to talk to my midwife. Even though it must have been difficult for her too, she was understanding and helped me.”

She brought her daughter to Wales so that she would not be cut after she came to realise what had been done to her. She said:

“I wish the people who helped me could see the impact on mine and my family’s lives, I wish they could see the confidence they have given me. I would like them to see how happy I am day to day, my children are not going to go through this, I am a survivor.”

Find out how to support someone today to live fear free. Visit www.livefearfree.gov.wales or call 0808 8010800 for 24 hour confidential advice and support.

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