TODAY, Transport for Wales reaches its first- year anniversary since taking responsibility for rail services across Wales and the Borders, which marked the beginning of their £5 billion investment programme.
Over the past twelve months, TfW have put the customer at the heart of their decisions and as a thank you to them, they’re offering 20% off advance tickets bought between 14 and 20 October for travel up until 26 November.
Some of the key highlights over the year include the creation of the advanced fare initiative, making it cheaper for journeys over 50 miles; delay repay 15 was launched so that customers can claim for delays of 15 minutes or more and the implementation of new performance measures designed to provide a more reliable and punctual service.
TfW also began their £194 million plan to improve every railway station across their network and committed to spend more than £600,000 a year on Community Rail Partnerships, creating community ambassador roles, that will be responsible for promoting regional tourism and local economic growth.
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James Price, Transport for Wales CEO said;
“It has been an exciting and challenging first year and we are proud to have started transforming the rail service for the people of Wales through delivering on our promises.
“We are implementing some ambitious programmes that will help us to improve the customer experience. Work has started on our railway stations; modernising them, making them safer and more accessible for local businesses and communities. We successfully reintroduced regular passenger services along the Halton Curve, providing 215 new services per week and connecting Wrexham with Liverpool by rail for the first time in 40 years.
“We have introduced additional trains to our network and our December timetable change will bring further increases in capacity across our busiest routes.
“Behind the scenes, there has been detailed planning and preparation work going on for the delivery of Metro services across Wales, the introduction of brand-new trains and the vision to create a fully integrated transport network.
“As well as our customers, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff for their dedication over the year and also thank the partners and businesses that we’ve worked with.”
Ken Skates, Minister for Economy and Transport, said:
“One year into our ambitious journey of rail improvement I believe it is important to recognise the progress that has been made. There have been the start of new services and new advanced fares and we will soon see extra capacity being added to some of our busiest lines. We’ve also outlined an ambitious £194m package of investment to improve every station in Wales.
“It’s clear that there are significant challenges and this journey will take time, but we have ambitious plans to transform transport across Wales to deliver a fully integrated network, with customers at the heart of everything. We have outlined a vision for a transformed railway across Wales – including the development of Metro systems – and Transport for Wales will continue to have an essential role to play in helping to deliver this.”
Two teams of chefs to represent Wales at the Culinary Olympics
Two well prepared teams of chefs will be flying the Welsh flag as they take on the best in the world at the prestigious IKA Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart next month.
The senior and junior teams will join around 2,000 chefs and pastry chefs from more than 60 nations at the biggest and oldest international culinary art exhibition from February 14 to 19.
Senior Culinary Team Wales will be led by Nick Davies, culinary craft trainer with Cambrian Training, Welshpool, who combines the roles of team manager and member whilst Sergio Cinotti, from the award-winning Gemelli Restaurant, Newport, takes over the captaincy for the first time.
Junior Culinary Team Wales has Michael Kirkham-Evans, a lecturer at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Rhos-on-Sea, as manager and former senior team captain Danny Burke, a partner in Olive Tree Catering, Runcorn, as coach.
Also selected to represent the senior team are pastry chef Will Richards from Cambrian Training, Dylan Wyn Owen, Manchester City Football Club’s executive chef, Matthew Smith, freelance chef from Newtown, Mark Robertson from Coleg Cambria, Wrexham, Jay Humphris from Coleg y Cymoedd and Thomas Martin, a freelance chef from Pontypridd. Logistics manager is Peter Fuchs, culinary director of The Celtic Collection and ICC Wales, Newport.
The senior team has held four events to run through the dishes it will cook for the Restaurant of Nations – one element of the competition – at the Culinary Olympics. The chefs complete preparations with a sold-out dinner at Cobra Rugby Club on January 17.
The team met on January 2 to run through its chef’s edible buffet, a new element introduced for the Culinary Olympics and will complete last minute fine tuning at a final training session on February 3.
“The team has a good mix of seasoned competitors and new members who have brought some fresh ideas to the table,” said Nick, who will be competing at his fifth Culinary Olympics. “Most of the chefs will be competing at the Culinary Olympics for the first time and are understandably excited by the prospect. They have bonded very well.
“Our Restaurant of Nations menu is looking and tasting good and we are perfecting the chef’s edible buffet, which is being introduced for the first time at the Culinary Olympics.”
The team’s Restaurant of Nations menu for 110 covers opens with a starter of halibut, prawn, ravioli, textures of peas, asparagus and wild garlic and Carmarthen ham. Main course is marmalade glazed duck breast, confit leg bon bon, skin granola, root vegetable terrine, carrot puree and port jus. Dessert is rhubarb, apple, white chocolate, stem ginger and pistachio.
The junior team, captained by Callum Smith, The Lion and Pheasant, Shrewsbury, includes pastry chef Alys Evans, Llanerch Vineyard, Pontyclun, Dalton Weir, Home Cooking, Llandudno, Morgan Read, Brook House Mill, Denbigh, Lara Walker, Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Alice Yeomans, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton, Oxford and James Jarvis, Sebastians Restaurant, Oswestry.
The talented young chefs complete their Restaurant of Nations menu run through with a lunch at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Rhos-on-Sea on Tuesday, January 28. They put the final touches to their dishes and the chef’s edible buffet at a training bootcamp this week.
The team’s Restaurant of Nations menu features a starter of Pembrokeshire scallop and roe croquette, seabass ceviche, chilled avocado, gin and elderflower cucumber. Main course is dry aged fillet and short rib of Welsh Beef, sourdough crouton, onion puree and Butty Bach jus. Dessert is chocolate black cherry chilled fondant, white chocolate and griottine cherry custard, crème fraiche sorbet, sesame tuille and sour cherry gel.
Both manager and coach are pleased with the young team’s progress and are looking to the final practice dinner to fine tune the chefs ready for the Culinary Olympics. Most of the chefs are aged between 19 and 21.
“Alys competed with the senior team at the Culinary World Cup in November 2018 and two members went as commis chefs to gain experience,” said Michael. “The junior team is better prepared that we have ever been.
“Our Restaurant of Nations menu is packed with flavour and requires lots of different skills from the chefs. With 50 per cent of the hot kitchen marks awarded for flavour, we are hoping to score well for taste.
“The main course is braised Jacob’s Ladder and a small fillet of Welsh Beef, which seems to be working well with the people who have tasted it.
“Danny is working on the menus and has introduced some elements of the dishes that helped him to win the Northern Europe heat of the Global Chef Challenge.
“We are finalising the chef’s edible buffet, which has 12 courses, including canapes, terrines, a hot rabbit dish and a dessert.”
At the Culinary Olympics, the senior team produces its chef’s edible buffet on February 16 and its Restaurant of Nations hot kitchen menu for 110 covers on February 18. The junior team delivers its Restaurant of Nations menu for 60 covers on February 15 and its chef’s edible buffet on February 17.
Culinary Team Wales is sponsored by the Welsh Government’s Food and Drink Wales, Cambrian Training Company, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Castell Howell Foods, Hybu Cig Cymru and Harlech Foods.
Are you missing out on a Council Tax reduction?
IF YOU’RE struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, then help could be available for you through the Welsh Government’s flagship Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS).
The scheme, which will continue to support vulnerable households in 2020-21, currently benefits one in five of all households in Wales. In the last year almost 280,000 low-income households have received help from the scheme, with 220,000 paying no council tax at all. Many more receive other discounts or exemptions.
You may be entitled to pay less council tax if:
• you believe you live on a low income
• you live alone, or with people/children who do not pay council tax
• you are a student
• you are disabled
• you are severely mentally impaired
Understanding why there are still vulnerable households not benefitting from the help they are entitled to is a priority for the Welsh Government. Last year we commissioned research to understand the circumstances of households in Wales and the effects of the UK Government’s Universal Credit on the CTRS.
The interim report out today shows that for many households, the move to Universal Credit can have a significant impact on council tax reduction awards. Whilst many households currently receiving a 100% reduction will continue to do so, for others, the move to Universal Credit is shown to have an adverse impact, particularly for employed households, self-employed households, and working households in receipt of a Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.
Full findings of the interim report are available on the Welsh Government website. These findings will now be considered in more detail to inform the next stages of the research and policy development in this area.
Encouraging people to make sure they are not missing out on help they could be entitled to, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:
“Ensuring every household in Wales receives the council tax support they are entitled to is an important part of our commitment to making council tax fairer.
“Our scheme is already helping hundreds of thousands of households across Wales, but we know that there are still many missing out on the discounts, reductions and exemptions they are entitled to. I encourage everyone to check the Welsh Government website to find out if they could be paying less.”
Seven injured as bus hits bridge
A BUS heading to Swansea University has struck a bridge and, as a result, seven people are being treated for injuries one of which is in a serious condition.
Emergency Services arrived at the scene on Neath Road shortly after 9:40am this morning (December 12).
A 63 year old man has been arrested and a full investigation has been launched by the bus company First Cymru.
Four of the injured were taken to Swansea’s Morriston Hospital, two were taken to Neath Port Talbot minor injuries unit and another was taken to University Hospital of Wales in a serious condition.
The bus was travelling between Swansea’s Singleton campus and the Swansea Bay campus when, according to reports, a fallen tree caused the bus driver to seek an alternative route to its destination.
The road remains closed and railway lines to Swansea are also blocked while authorities attempt to assess the damage done to the bridge with members of the public being asked to avoid the area.