west*wales*news*review

West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Archive for the category “Transport”

‘Slow Down’ Plea from Porthyrhyd

Porthyrhyd — in this case the country village north of Llanwrda, not the Porthyrhyd near Cross Hands — suffers from excessive speed as traffic taking a short cut from the A482 to Llandovery whizzes through without the hindrance of any limits.

Siloh, on the same route, also has no speed restriction.

This could change in 2017-18, thanks to pressure from local people, led by county councillor Dafydd Tomos and community councillor Arwel Davies. Monday (January 23) served up a lunchtime surprise to John McEvoy, road safety and traffic manager with Carmarthenshire County Council, when he arrived to meet Dafydd Tomos.

Mr McEvoy found himself facing some two dozen residents of Porthyrhyd and Siloh assembled in the Beudy belonging to Dr Brinley and Mrs Stephanie Jones, Drovers Farm, prepared to state their case strongly. Mr McEvoy had good news, though — he agreed that a 30 mph speed limit is necessary, and said he hoped it would be in place before April 2018. He also promised to visit Siloh and look at the need for speed restriction there.

Heavy vehicles, and delivery vans rushing from drop to drop, are an important part of the traffic problems on minor roads, which generally lack pavements and so are shared with walkers. The closure of local services like schools, shops and post offices, and the scarcity of public transport, means that more people have to travel by private vehicle.

If just the financial costs of transport — let alone the road safety and environmental dangers — were included in calculations, the closure of public amenities in rural areas would make a lot less sense.

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John McEvoy, road safety and traffic manager with Carmarthenshire County Council, tells Porthyrhyd  residents that speed limits should be introduced in the coming financial year

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Dafydd Tomos, the Plaid Cymru county councillor for Cilycwm, who backs the campaign for speed limits 

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Arwel Davies, Cilycwm community councillor, who pressed for the meeting

 

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Residents of Porthyrhyd and Siloh in the Beudy at Drovers Farm on Monday (January 23) to press for 30 mph speed limits through both villages. Dr Brinley Jones of Drovers Farm is left in the second row 

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Llandeilo Provisions Market: Renovation Dream, Parking Nightmare

Where are Llandeilo’s 349 daytime and 508 evening car park spaces? We don’t know.

Carmarthenshire County Council has used these figures to justify planning approval for a major commercial redevelopment of the listed Provisions Market building at the top of Carmarthen Street at the junction with New Road. See also the Carmarthenshire Herald, October 21.

Only 36 spaces would be provided on site, but the apparent availability of hundreds of spaces elsewhere in the town led the planning committee to decide last week (October 13) that the shortage of spaces at the historic building would not be a problem – even though the 16 or so existing informal parking spaces on the New Road and Carmarthen Street sides of the county-council owned building would disappear to allow for tables and chairs.

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PM, Provisions Market; R, residents’ parking; 1, Carmarthen Road car park; 2, Crescent Road car park, the main one in Llandeilo; 3, Llandeilo Station car park. The thee car parks have 205 spaces between them

Llandeilo town has three public car parks. Crescent Road, by far the largest, has 165 spaces. There are 25 at Llandeilo Station and 15 in the Carmarthen Road car park next to the Fire Station, according to figures obtained by Llandeilo’s hard-working county councillor Edward Thomas. That’s a total of 205, or 144 less than the daytime figure given to the planning committee.  And scarcely anyone would walk from the station to the Provisions Market, a distance of nearly half a mile via steps and Alan Road. A less steep route via Station Road is three-quarters of a mile.

Cllr Thomas is “very concerned” about the loss of unofficial parking spaces outside the Provisions Market. “I am actively campaigning for more parking spaces in Llandeilo, because there is definitely a need for it,” he said. Flat land suitable for parking is at a premium, though, and so it may become necessary to find land outside the town and run a shuttle bus service.

Residents only parking

Daytime on-street parking in Llandeilo is residents only in New Road, as well as in Crescent Road, Church Street, Abbey Terrace, Bank Terrace and Quay Street. Between 6pm and 8am these residents’ spaces are, in theory, available to anyone including, of course, the residents. In addition, at designated spaces at the top of New Road and opposite the civic offices in Crescent Road, drivers can park for up to two hours if a residents’ bay is vacant. Within a couple of hundred metres of the Provisions Market, there are 23 one-hour parking bays in King Street and five 30-minute bays in George Street, but these are intended for quick shopping stops.

Carmarthen Street is narrow and displays double yellow lines on both sides. Rhosmaen Street, part of the A483 Swansea to Manchester trunk road, is definitely No Parking.

Plans for the Provisions Market include two of the 36 parking spaces to be reserved for the disabled. The parking area would absorb the Carmarthen Street recycling site, which would be moved elsewhere. At present there are about 12 spaces behind the building in addition to the 16 at the front and side, and they are normally full – so the new plan adds only eight spaces.

Additional 175 spaces required

If guidelines for new commercial development were followed, there would be 175 spaces at the refurbished Provisions Market, including 12 for the disabled. Most disabled drivers need to be close to their destination – but within 50 yards or so of the Provisions Market the options, if the two reserved spaces were occupied, would be the 10 spaces outside Pili Pala Nursery opposite, or temporary use of a residents’ parking bay, in both cases limited to two hours.

The council’s highways and transport department appears to have had a change of heart since 2012, when lack of parking was a reason for the Head of Transport’s recommendation to refuse the application, by the housing association Gwalia, to construct four houses and nine flats on the site, and to renovate the Provisions Market building as a shell for future commercial use. Gwalia had proposed 16 parking spaces for the dwellings and five for the market building (two of which have since been taken by a bus stop).

Events venue

The 2012 proposals would have resulted, at least initially, in few people on the site, probably between 20 and 25 residents, but the latest plans, by Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd, are for an events venue with retailing, catering, and business uses which could employ 80 people full-time and 23 part-time. There would be some parking for customers if all employees walked to work, or came by bus – but that is improbable.

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Renovation would mean the end of informal parking around the old Provisions Market. Public transport does not exist for many of the people who need to come into town, which is in sore need of more daytime parking spaces

There is little spare parking space in Llandeilo now in the daytime – so 103 additional employees, and an unknown number of customers, are likely to park on the streets, and the main candidate near the Provisions Market is Carmarthen Road beyond the Police Station and down to Llandeilo Rugby Club, where there are no yellow lines, plus smart residential roads off Carmarthen Road like Diana Road, Lôn Rhys and Parc Pencrug.

The Herald is awaiting replies from Carmarthenshire County Council to questions about the number of car park spaces in Llandeilo, and the source of the figures given to the planning committee.

More cars with internal combustion engines coming into Llandeilo would worsen the already severe air pollution problem. On the other hand, frequent public transport between isolated rural homes and the town centre would not be affordable. Electric cars must be part of the answer — but they still need somewhere to park (and recharge).

PDR

 

Pioneer community hub opens at Llandeilo station

Also see the Carmarthenshire Herald, July 15th 2016, p. 13

From afar it could be a stranded goods wagon. Close up, it’s a highly insulated wooden building by the approach road to Llandeilo station. Nicknamed ‘The Hub’, it is unique in the UK’s rail network, the first of a hoped-for string of similar buildings at rural stations.

Created for the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, costing around £30,000 and grant-aided by the Welsh Government, the building has a water supply from rain falling on the roof, and a compost toilet independent of mains drainage.  LED lighting and low-energy heating tubes also contribute to low running costs.

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Hub Quartet: project manager Rachel Francis, line development officer David Edwards, constructor David Bamford, and railway expert Professor Paul Salveson 

“We are linking this building to mains electricity,” said project manager Rachel Francis, “but with the help of solar panels a similar building could have an independent electricity supply. “

Built of Welsh timber by David Bamford of Presteigne, Powys, the Hub will be available for local social enterprises and businesses. The first to book are Sara Tommerup and James Scrivens of the Black Mountain Food Hub – a hub within a hub – who will be there on Friday mornings for food producers to deliver and in the afternoons for customers to collect their orders, received via their website, http://www.blackmountainfoodhub.co.uk.  A local delivery service is offered too, at £2, and there are plans for Llandovery station to also become a collection point.

“We hope to work with more local food producers,” said Sara. “Currently the Popty Patagonia Bakehouse, Organics to Go, Liliwen Herbs, Llandeilo Country Markets and Black Mountain Wholefoods  — all in and around Llandeilo — are our suppliers, and we will also be sourcing butter from the Gwenlas Dairy. At present we are looking especially for more vegetables.”

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Using the new building at Llandeilo station: Sara Tommerup and James Scrivens of the Black Mountain Food Hub

The Hub could also become a base for day trip and railway-linked package tour operators. The Heart of Wales Line Development Company and Herefordshire-based travel firm Rural Concierge are working on a programme of mini breaks from stations along the line, which links Swansea with Shrewsbury.

More ideas could come from a Friends of Llandeilo Station group, which Heart of Wales Line development officer David Edwards is keen to see created.

For the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, and high-profile railway enthusiasts including Professor Paul Salveson of Huddersfield University, siting The Hub at Llandeilo is the result of months of planning and negotiations – and of confidence that the Heart of Wales line will continue to grow in importance as a transport artery.

PDR

 

 

Regeneration Route: New Futures for the Heart of Wales Railway

Rural Wales today is a land of loss, of public services gone away, of rural spaces used for the benefit of people elsewhere, as vistas for holiday consumption, as water stores and as electricity farms. Remember the Development Board for Rural Wales, which was supposed to power economic revival? The DBRW was extant for 18 years, 1977 to 1995, and had the job of economic revival in Powys, Ceredigion and Meirionnydd. Job done in 1995? Of course not. So do we need a modern version ?

Buzz words today are ‘city regions’. The Welsh Government sees Wales as two-and-a-half city regions: (1) greater Cardiff including Newport, and (2) Swansea Bay, with north-east Wales as the half, linked to the industrial hinterlands of the river Mersey in England. Investment would be concentrated in these regions, leaving all of Wales outside the urban bubbles even shorter of resources than they are already.

You can argue that city regions are anachronisms in a world pushing up against limits to growth, but ‘sustainability’ did not feature centrally in the City Regions in Wales report presented to the Welsh Government in 2012.[i] Nor did climate change, nor the Welsh Government’s professed aim for the country to use no more resources than our single planet can provide. The concept of a city region as a growth magnet poses all sorts of unanswered questions, such as

  • Where will cities’ food come from?
  • What sorts of income-earning jobs will the inhabitants do, in a climate-challenged, resource-depleted, environmentally damaged world?

Here in north-west Europe, judging by TV adverts and supermarket shelves, it can seem as though there are limitless supplies of everything, but that’s only because we use far more than our fair share.  Who could live on 85p a day? Some 1.2 billion people – around 19 times more than the population of the UK – have to scrape by on less. There aren’t enough resources to supply everyone with a north-west European standard of materialism.

The very notion of the ‘sustainable city’ is perhaps a triumph of optimism over history, because civilisations collapse when cities can no longer be provisioned. Political instability ensues, and surviving populations melt into the countryside.

In Wales, too many politicians regard ‘the countryside’ as the past, not the future. Fortunately, small groups of people are working for rural revival, and more than a dozen of them met in Llandovery on Friday at the start of a campaign to bring new life to the communities along the Heart of Wales railway, which crosses Wales from Swansea in the south to Shrewsbury in the borderlands of England, and is ‘rural’ within Wales most of the way from Llanelli in Carmarthenshire to Knighton in Powys, a distance of some 80 miles.

Professor Paul Salveson[ii] asks “Could the Heart of Wales Line become a linear ‘Mondragon’ network supporting a network of co-operative enterprises?” The Mondragon federation is the (mostly) successful co-operative economic engine of the Basque Country in Spain, and I think the answer to Prof Salveson’s question is ‘Yes’. Not just along the Heart of Wales corridor, either, but also to the west, either side of a resurrected Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway.

continues below the map 

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Map from Traws Link Cymru, the group campaigning to restore, initially, the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line. The map shows Wales’ remaining railways in black, including the Heart of Wales line passing through Ammanford, Llandovery and Builth Wells.

Glenn Bowen of the Wales Co-operative Centre  — the largest co-operative development body in the UK, according to Wikipedia – was on hand at the Level Crossing hostel by Llandovery Station yesterday to outline the pros and cons of various types of corporate structures, to representatives from the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, Heart of Wales Line Travellers Association, Friends of Llandovery Station, Llanwrtyd Community Transport & Events Recycling, Transition Tywi Trawsnewid, and the Calon Cymru group which exists to promote sustainable activity along the line. Early days, but there is enthusiasm to create a Heart of Wales Enterprise Network.

Calon Cymru last year devised a plan for a string of ‘garden villages’ along the line, and submitted it for the Wolfson Prize. The Wolfson competition sought ideas for a new garden city, rather than garden villages, and the entry did not win an award, but I think it shows that low-impact developments have much to offer rural Wales, in helping to rejuvenate the population profile, creating land-based enterprises including ‘One Planet’ ventures using only those resources which our planet can continue to provide, and bringing critical mass to support public services including transport. Click on The Linear Garden City: a One Planet vision to read the plan.

Separate campaign groups have been labouring away, often for years, in their own back yards, and as small ventures made only limited political impact. The current move to collaborate could mark the start of a new, more positive phase in the history of the forgotten back-lands of rural Wales.

A new Development Board for Rural Wales? No, that would be planning imposed from the top downwards. The idea now, a much better idea, I think, is to support individuals and community groups as they set about creating their own futures.

PDR

[i] City Regions Final Report, July 2012. ‘Sustainability and Climate Change’ comprised paragraphs 145 to 149, saying sustainable development should become a unique selling point for attracting investment. The climate change issue was summarised in one sentence in paragraph 147: “Studies have found that while cities create many of the problems of climate change they also offer increased scope to maximise resource efficiency”.

 

[ii] Paul Salveson MBE is visiting professor in transport and logistics at the University of Huddersfield. His reference to Mondragon is in ‘Unlocking enterprise and creativity in Mid Wales: a rail-based approach’, which he wrote for the Heart of Wales Line Development Company: click to read Unlocking enterprise and creativity in Mid Wales

On Track to Revive Carmarthen to Aberystwyth Railway

The campaign to restore the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway, which closed to passengers in 1965, is gaining momentum, and this is only the first phase of Traws Link Cymru’s plan for a railway along the west coast of Wales, linking the south with the north at Bangor via Aberystwyth, Afon-Wen and Caernarfon.

Campaign progress will be reported to an open public meeting in Carmarthen on Thursday March 19th, in St Peter’s Civic Hall, 1 Nott Square, at 7pm.

Rail travel to Bangor from my home north of Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire is, at present, protracted, via England, and quite expensive. The cheapest return fare I could find is £80.90, which works out at about 12p per minute on a ‘quick’ typical return journey of 11 hours 20 minutes (5 hours 20 minutes there via Shrewsbury, 6 hours back). The rail expedition takes half as much time again as the car journey, if I accept the AA’s estimate that I could drive the 139.6 miles from Llandeilo to Bangor in three hours 33 minutes.

In 20 years’ time, in a resource- and climate-challenged world, the need for the railway will probably be crystal clear, but its protagonists now face a struggle to secure funding, which for the 56.5-mile Carmarthen-Aberystwyth stretch could be £650 million, between £11 million and £12 million per mile. Only small change compared with unknown billions — £50 billion? £60 billion? — for HS2 in England, and it would repair a massive broken link in Wales’ transport network. When the whole west coast route is operating, it will be possible to travel by rail from Cardiff to Caernarfon entirely within the boundaries of Wales.

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Reconnecting West Wales by rail: Traws Link Cymru‘s campaign to restore lost lines. Photo from The Daily Wales, http://dailywales.net/2014/03/28/traws-link-cymru-the-west-wales-rail-campaign/

The advantages of a West Coast Line are legion and include linkage of Wales’ university towns by rail, a lower carbon footprint than car or bus travel, and easier commuting by public transport for the people of rural West Wales. The numbers of rail passengers are rising fast – 40% more at Aberystwyth station in eight years, the campaign reports. The Carmarthen-Aberystwyth track corridor is still mainly intact, as just 3% has been built on, and the three tunnels are, the campaigners say, structurally strong.

The volunteers of the Gwili Railway have already restored about three and a half miles of track at the Carmarthen end of the line, where they operate steam trains as a leisure attraction, and their work is a kick start for the venture to revive the whole abandoned line.

 PDR

The Wheels on the Bus Go £££

by Pat Dodd Racher

Photo from Wiki-JET

Extra travel-to-school costs resulting from the closure of Ysgol Gyfun Pantycelyn, Llandovery, will be £460,000 a year, according to calculations made by Carmarthenshire County Council and released this week under the Freedom of Information Act.

If the calculation is correct, the costs of transporting pupils to the new Ysgol Bro Dinefwr 13 miles away in Ffairfach will be almost £2.2 million a year, compared with £1.73 million for transport to Pantycelyn and Tregib in Ffairfach, the two schools that are to be replaced.

Transport for pupils currently attending Pantycelyn has to be re-organised, and new routes created, to keep the theoretical maximum journey time to one hour each way.

Pupils will also lose the opportunity to do something more productive than sitting on a bus, but this enforced reduction in work or leisure time was not considered when the journey time analyses were made. A conventional way to value this time is to allocate a monetary value to it, but Carmarthenshire states that “No monetary value was attributed to pupils’ travelling time as part of this exercise”.

In ‘A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Rural Secondary School Consolidation: a Report to Gwynedd County Council’, James Foreman-Peck of the Welsh Institute for Research and Development, Cardiff Business School, followed Department of Transport guidelines for costing travel and gave a value to pupils’ extra travelling time. His figure was £5 an hour, based on the Department of Transport’s value of £4.46 per hour for ‘leisure travel’ in 2002, uprated for inflation. The current value, using the Retail Prices Index, would be £6.32 an hour.

If Carmarthenshire County Council had put a value on pupils’ wasted time, the outcome of the journey cost exercise would have been very different. Let’s suggest that the increase in daily travelling time averages 20 minutes twice a day. This was the figure used for Gwynedd, and is probably conservative in the case of Pantycelyn, where all the pupils who currently walk to school will face an additional 30 minutes or so each way, on a straightforward non-stop journey. Even at an extra 20 minutes each way, and limiting the number of pupils to 300 – there were 313 on roll when Estyn inspected the school in March 2011 – the cost is huge. Taking a school year as 188 days, each pupil’s additional wasted time is just over 125 hours a year. At £6.32 an hour, that is £790. Multiply by 300, and the result is £237,000 in lost time.

Anyone spending two hours a day on a bus for 188 days would waste 376 hours, equivalent to almost 63 six-hour school days – one third of the time they actually spend learning in school.

Adding just the conservatively-estimated additional cost of wasted time on the longer journey to Ffairfach to the £460,000 extra transport costs that the council has calculated, and the total soars to £697,000 a year in costs that would not be incurred if a secondary school campus were to be retained in Llandovery.

Many would say that children’s travel time does not have a cost, but pupils may not be able to do a part-time job, practice a skill such as piano, violin or guitar, look after pets, or even do homework. Time spent on a school bus is not ‘productive time’.

When all costs, incurred and imputed, are taken into account, school closures are much harder to justify. I hope that Ysgol Bro Dinefwr will be a great success, that no pupils will be on the road for more than two hours a day, that they will prefer it to their previous schools, but longer journeys to school, and the consequent higher emissions of noxious gases, are not exactly helpful in the battle against rapid climate change. Assuming an average extra distance per journey of 8 miles, that makes 16 miles a day for 188 days, 3,112 extra miles per pupil per year. Multiplying that by 300 pupils gives 933,600 person-miles, enough to go round the world 37.5 times!

Climate change and pollution issues are not going away. The USA’s move to fracked shale gas has freed up US coal for export, and some of it is being burned in UK power stations. Coal powered 40% of the UK’s electricity generation in 2012, the highest level since 1996, the Environment Agency revealed on November 11th. The increase in coal burning resulted in a 19% rise in damaging sulphur emissions, which return earthwards in ‘acid rain’. Therefore, even if the availability of fracked gas means that fuel price rises are lower than anticipated in the short run, the dangerous downsides are more air pollution and environmental damage.

Extra travel is of course only one aspect of the calculations underlying school reorganisation, but it does appear that in the case of Pantycelyn, the issue of children’s lost time was not given deep consideration. In addition, the pollution implications of longer road journeys, year after year into the future, were not prioritised. And just considering the money cost alone, the wheels on the bus truly go £££.

The issues go far beyond the county council, which was operating within the legal framework at the time. They are matters for national government, and urgent matters at that.

The author is grateful to Carmarthenshire County Council for the information released under the FOI Act.

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