THE RESULTS of a scoping exercise which looked into the practicalities of reopening the Carmarthen – Aberystwyth railway line were published last week (Dec 22). Earlier this year, following lobbying by Traws Cymru, Economy and Transport Minister, Edwina Hart agreed to fund an initial study on the potential of reopening the railway, which has been closed to passenger traffic since 1965, with a section remaining open for freight until 1973. AECOM was commissioned by the Welsh Government to provide technical advice, in the form of a report, setting out all the issues to be considered under a full feasibility study into re-opening the line, and providing a scope, programme and cost for that study Among the key findings of the exercise were that over 97% of the original route remains undeveloped.
However, due to residential development at the Aberystwyth end, it is thought that a tunnel would have to be built under Penparcau, which could cost more than £60m. The core formation – tunnels, embankments and bridges – has generally remained intact, but new bridges would be needed at Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. A new route would possibly have to be found at the Carmarthen end, to replace that currently used by the Gwili Railway. While it was accepted that the original route may not be the optimal one today, the scoping exercise recognized that the topography of the area does not lend itself to alternative routes. The costs for the line are, at this stage, highly indicative due to uncertainties about the route and the extent to which the core formation will have to be repaired or replaced. However, the construction cost was estimated to be between £350m and £505m. With land and consent costs, this would rise to £750m. At present, the Welsh Governmentbacked bus service between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth was used 102,000 times last year.
The report pointed out that the main population centres were at either end of the route, and suggested that, even with speed restrictions and passing times, a journey time of 90 minutes between the two should be possible. Commenting on the report, Mrs Hart said: “Improving public transport links is a key priority for this government and this includes increasing access links across rural communities. “Carmarthen to Aberystwyth is already connected by a regular Welsh Government funded bus service, but I am open-minded to alternative public transport links and this scoping exercise will help inform the debate. Although funding railway infrastructure is non-devolved, I am pleased the Welsh Government has been able to assist with this first step in the possible re-introduction of rail services between these two locations.”
Swansea Building Society expands Cradock Street head office
SWANSEA BUILDING SOCIETY has expanded its head office at 11/12 Cradock Street, Swansea, with the acquisition of the adjoining property – number 13. The refurbishment of the adjoining property is set to take approximately 10 weeks, with a move-in date scheduled for the end of January 2023.
The acquisition has been made to help accommodate the Society’s growing workforce, which has grown by 10 percent over the past year. Extensive work is now required on the new property, with a full refurbishment, new windows, and a new roof needed before it can comfortably accommodate the Society’s additional staff.
The move in date is set to tie in with an important milestone in Swansea Building Society’s history – it will celebrate 100 years as a mutual in 2023.
As it approaches this key landmark, the Society is enjoying a period of sustained and significant growth – the result of many years planning and investment. Its total assets, mortgage balances, savings, capital, and profits all reached record highs in the past year, passing the landmark £500 million in total assets for the first time.
It has also invested more than £1 million in its IT and back-office infrastructure, in a project that replaces all its hardware, considerably strengthens its cyber security, improves resilience with a remote disaster recovery site, and enhances the online offering it is able to provide its customers.
Along with this, the Society has invested in new talent across a number of departments including mortgage underwriting, IT, marketing, and the mortgage sales team. It has also employed several new customer-facing staff to help it support the increased footfall it has experienced at all its local branches in Swansea, Mumbles, Carmarthen and Cowbridge.
Alun Williams, Chief Executive at Swansea Building Society, said:
“The acquisition of number 13 Cradock Street is much needed to accommodate our growing head office workforce. When completed, the refurbished extension to our property will host 14 staff and allow us room for further expansion if needed.
“Our success and investment over recent years means that we are even better prepared to help our members plan their finances and get the savings and mortgage products they need for a better and more secure future. By increasing our staff, expanding our premises, and updating our IT infrastructure, we are better able to serve them with the financial advice and products that are right for them. It also means we can provide them with a choice of options about how they manage their finances – in person at one of our many branches or online – whichever is most convenient.”
Cllr Rob Stewart, Leader, Swansea Council, said:
“The expansion of Swansea Building Society’s headquarters in Cradock Street is more great news for our city centre. The Society is a shining example of a successful, community-minded mutual, and to see it expanding its workforce, creating jobs, and bringing them right into the heart of the city is fantastic.
“Cradock Street is undergoing considerable redevelopment with the renovation and repurposing of the Albert Hall by Depot Swansea – directly opposite Swansea Building Society’s headquarters – into a multi-purpose venue. Renovation of this area is another example of how we are saving the city’s heritage for future generations in a way that is useful and meaningful to the people of Swansea. The city is undergoing an important phase in its regeneration, and organisations like Swansea Building Society play a vital role in ensuring that this regeneration is sustainable for the future.”
BHF Cymru celebrates Heart Heroes across Wales
BHF CYMRU is celebrating the inspirational people from Carmarthenshire who’ve been nominated in the British Heart Foundation’s Heart Hero Awards 2022.
The annual awards ceremony returns for a fifth year on Thursday 1st December. The charity will honour incredible young heart heroes who’ve shown remarkable bravery and gone above and beyond to help others while coping with the devastating impact of heart disease, as well as CPR lifesavers, innovative fundraisers, corporate partners, research champions and healthcare heroes working in the NHS.
Winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony in London, with Vernon Kay hosting for the fourth time. He’ll be joined by celebrity judges including footballing legend David Ginola and Olympic gymnasts Becky and Ellie Downie.
Healthcare Hero Nominee
Dr Lena Izzat from Llanelli has supported BHF Cymru to raise awareness of the Heart Attack Gender Gap in Wales. As a female cardiologist she has spoken out about the unconscious and systemic bias in the health care system which leaves women who have heart attacks less likely to get diagnosed and receive the best care. Lena has been integral to a campaign which has secured a commitment from the Minister for Health to tackle health inequalities in Wales.
Innovative Fundraiser Nominees
Lisa Pudner from Llanelli is a former Paralympian who raised over £2,000 for the BHF through a sponsored handcycle and walking event in memory of her friend Nest Davies. Nest died suddenly from a heart attack. Lisa was awarded a BHF Cymru medal in recognition of her achievements and said: “We did this for the BHF because they fund research into heart and circulatory conditions, and we want to stop other families and friends losing loved ones in the future.”
Lifesavers nominated as CPR Heroes for performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in a life-threatening emergency
- Alun Sturley from Carmarthen who saved his father John.
- Jean Thomas from Carmarthen, saved her husband Michael.
Head of BHF Cymru, Rhodri Thomas, himself from Carmarthenshire said: “The Heart Hero Awards are the highlight of our year, bringing together inspirational nominees from different walks of life and from every part of the UK. From fantastic children to remarkable pensioners, they all share such spirit and embody the very best of us.
“I’m proud and humbled that so many nominees are from Carmarthenshire, and I’m delighted to thank them for the amazing support they give the BHF and the motivation they bring to myself and the whole BHF Cymru team.
“Whilst we celebrate these brilliant Heart Hero nominees, we also thank each of our brilliant BHF supporters who power our lifesaving science and bring new hope to the 7.6 million people across the UK living with conditions such as stroke, heart disease and vascular dementia.
“I’m in no doubt that their dedication and selflessness will mean more lives will be saved from heart and circulatory disease, so thank you and congratulations to all our inspirational nominees”.
The Heart Heroes Awards will be live-streamed at 8pm on Thursday 1st December. Register to watch the celebration online at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heartheroes
Public Services Board seeks views to improve local well-being
CARMARTHENSHIRE’S Public Services Board (PSB) is seeking residents’ views to find out what matters to them and their local communities.
The PSB has developed its Well-being Objectives and draft actions to deliver them, based on feedback received on its Well-being Assessment. The results of a survey at that time gathered views and helped shape the PSB’s understanding of the economic, social, environmental, and cultural factors that impact the well-being of individuals and communities within Carmarthenshire.
Once again, residents are being asked to contribute to help public service partners develop Carmarthenshire’s Local Well-being Plan for 2023-28.
To help shape the future of well-being please visit: Current Consultations (gov.wales)
The survey closes on 25 January 2023.
Cllr Darren Price, Chair of the Carmarthenshire PSB and Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “To deliver what is important to our communities, we need to their feedback and input. This survey is an opportunity for our residents to tell us if we, as public services, are on the right track to help create a better future for our children’s generation, and the generations to follow, as we strive to reach this goal.”
Andrew Cornish, Vice-Chair of the PSB andChief Executive Officer / Principal of Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion said: “Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our work so far. Our Well-being Assessment gives us a strong foundation on which to build our Well-being Plan and I would like to encourage everyone to take part in our involvement work for the preparation of the Plan.”
Carmarthenshire’s Public Services Board is a partnership of public and third sector organisations working together to improve well-being across the county and includes Carmarthenshire County Council, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Natural Resources Wales and other organisations.