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Rail chaos fears as electrification delays mean timetable can’t be met

New trains being introduced to Wales in 2017 could actually deliver slower travel times for passengers.

New hybrid trains which are able to run using both electric and diesel power are arriving in the UK from Japan for testing and are due to enter service from 2017 at a rate of one a fortnight. These brand new trains will enter service on the Great Western Mainline connecting Cardiff and Swansea with London. The long serving InterCity 125s will be transferred to Scotland in a deal already struck between the Department for Transport and ScotRail.

However the new hybrid trains, whilst capable of running on diesel, are according to insider sources not capable of matching the InterCity Trains speed and performance under diesel over long distances meaning the two hours five minutes it currently takes to get from Cardiff to London is likely to be longer should these trains be introduced before electrification is completed.

We could find ourselves in a ridiculous situation where passengers in South Wales get brand new trains which take longer to get to London that the forty year old trains that are currently being used. It is vital that we get clarification on what is happening.

The timetable for trains will be thrown into chaos and journey times will increase. There is also a serious chance that this will cost both the taxpayer and passengers huge amounts extra because these new trains are not designed for long diesel runs at speed and the trains maintenance costs as well as projected fuel costs will be higher than previously budgeted. The Tory Government are leaving South Wales in chaos as it’s electrification programme falls apart.

The electrification of the rail network in South Wales is much needed and long overdue but if these new trains are put into service before electrification is finished passengers will have their journey times extended before they get reduced, complicating timetables and pushing passengers away from rail travel.

Since the Liberal Democrats have left office, this whole project has turned into a farce. People have a right to know what is happening. I have written to The Department for Transport asking for urgent clarification of this issue.

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Welsh Lib Dems call for better safeguarding arrangements for vulnerable children

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for more to be done to help vulnerable children after a Wales Audit Office report has said that safeguarding arrangements for children are “variable” across Wales.

The report which has been published on Tuesday, said that the Welsh Government’s guidance is “not sufficiently clear and compliance with guidance by councils varies.” It adds that “some councils are unclear about their corporate safeguarding responsibilities”.

Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Children and Young People said:

“Ensuring the safety of children is one of the most important responsibilities that councils and governments can have. It is therefore bitterly disappointing that the standard of safeguarding children across Wales varies so much.

“The Welsh Labour Government’s guidance to councils fails to have the desired impact and needs to be much clearer. Some councils are not following the guidance closely enough and the Welsh Labour Government must provide strong leadership by ensuring this guidance is easily understood and implemented.

“It would seem that many councils are not getting the basics right. All councils must appoint a senior person who has overall responsibility in safeguarding the safety of children. They must also ensure staff are aware of their safeguarding responsibilities.”

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Welsh Lib Dem Young Person’s bus scheme to be launched in September

The Welsh Liberal Democrats’ Young Person’s Concessionary Bus Fare scheme will be launched in September 2015, it has been announced today.

From September, 16, 17 and 18 year olds will receive a one-third discount on all of their journeys by bus, including the TrawsCymru network of longer-distance services.

£5million has been allocated for the introduction of the scheme in 2015-16, and a further £9.75million in 2016-17.

From today, 16-18 years old will be able to register their interest for the new WYPDT Scheme Card via Gov.wales/mytravelpass (English) or Llyw.cymru/fyngherdynteithio (Welsh). It will enable them to receive discounted fares on all local buses and TrawsCymru journeys throughout Wales from 1 September

This Youth Concessionary Bus Fare policy was based on a campaign by the youth wing of the Welsh Lib Dems, IR Cymru, to secure affordable transport for young people.

In March 2014 the Welsh Liberal Democrats launched a report on a concessionary fare scheme for young travellers in Wales and led a debate on the issue in the Assembly calling on the Welsh Government to introduce a concessionary fare scheme for young travellers

In September 2014 the Welsh Liberal Democrats agreed to allow the Welsh Government’s annual budget to pass in exchange for funding for a range of key Welsh Liberal Democrat policies, including almost £15m for a Young Person’s Concessionary Bus Fare scheme. The scheme will be available to 110,000 16-18 year olds.

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for Transport said:

“Affordable public transport is key to enabling young people to access work, education, training and apprenticeships. That is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats have fought for a national concessionary scheme for young people aged 16-18, to help those struggling with the cost of transport.

“We used our influence in the National Assembly to ensure young people will have their very own bus pass. Because of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, people aged 16-18 will now have the help they need to travel to allow them to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.

“Once again we have shown that a vote for the Welsh Liberal Democrats is a vote for Welsh Liberal Democrat polices to be put into practice.

“As always, we see today a Welsh Labour Government trying to claim credit for a policy they have been forced to implement. Let us be in no doubt, this excellent scheme is only becoming a reality because of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.”

Chair of Liberal Youth Wales, Sam Bennett, added:

“Liberal Youth Wales have been campaigning for fairer fares for young people on public transport and I am delighted that as a result of our influence in budget negotiations, young people across Wales will now benefit from reduced fares when travelling by bus.”

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Tim Farron speech on Welfare cuts

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Welsh Lib Dems launch NHS 3 Point Plan

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today launched their 3-point planfor the NHS thatputs patients first.

Unveiling the party’s plans at the Royal Welsh Show, Kirsty Williams,Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats,said that the 3-point plan will be a key part of the party’s manifesto.

The plan is as follows:

• Guaranteed access to your GP – The Welsh Lib Dems would make it easier for you to get an appointment with your GP. People often find the process to get an appointment too restrictive. We would end this unfairness. We would properly invest in an Access to GPs scheme to guarantee a prompt appointment and extend GP opening hours.

• End mental health discrimination – The Welsh Lib Dems have a strong record of fighting for better mental health services. We believe mental health should not be ignored or stigmatised. We would ensure it is taken as seriously as physical health. We would ensure that patients suffering from mental health have the same rights to access treatments as those requiring physical care.

• More Nurses – Patients deserve the very best care. That is why the Welsh Lib Dems’ More Nurses plan would ensure we have a safe number of nurses on our wards. Nurses in Wales have more patients to care for than any other country in the UK – we will change this. It’s time for a good news story in the Welsh NHS and that is what we will deliver.

Speaking at the show in Llanelwedd, Kirsty Williams AM said:

“This is an ambitious plan for Wales because the Welsh Liberal Democrats want to deliver a health service that people deserve.

“For too long patients’ views have been side-lined and ignored. We’ll put patients front and centre of our health service.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have a wide range of policies and reforms for our health service. These three key policies will be at the very heart of our plans to improve our NHS.

“People are absolutely fed up of finding it a real struggle to make an appointment and access their GP. In this day and age, everyone should be able to make an appointment easily – that is what the Welsh Liberal Democrats will deliver.

“We will continue our campaign for mental health patients have the same rights as patientswith physical health problems, and we’ll improve safety and care by ensuring the safe number of nurses on our wards.

“It’s time to put patients first, not politics. This is why the Welsh Lib Dems are calling for a cross-party commission to look at the future of our NHS. Our NHS is too important to make cheap party political points about, so we once again call on the Tories and Plaid to stand up for patients rather than simply sitting back and shouting from the side-lines.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats want to hear from patients about their experiences of our NHS. That’s why we’ve launched a major nationwide health survey on our website at www.welshlibdems.wales/nhs.”

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Minister must get Swansea projects back on track following publication of RIFW report

The publication of the long-awaited Wales Audit Office report on the Regeneration Fund for Wales (RIFW) should enable the Welsh Government to start investing in important regeneration projects such as the Mumbles Pier development.

I have written to the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty to urge her to reinstate the offer of loans, where needed, that had been agreed by RIFW before the fund was suspended to allow for the Wales Audit Office investigation to take place. These included assistance with the Coastal Housing development adjacent to the castle in Wind Street, the former British Legion building in Mumbles and the Mumbles Pier development, amongst many others.

The Regeneration Fund for Wales was holding around £30 million in public money to facilitate regeneration activity, money that has subsequently been taken back into the Welsh Government.

Mumbles pier needs substantial work carried out to it to make it safe and to secure its future as a major attraction. The work is predicated on the sale of land for housing along the promenade and on the headland, the proceeds of which will then be used to renovate the pier and the old lifeboat house, as well as create a commercial centre on the mainland by the entrance to the pier. All the proceeds of the sale are to be invested in the work on the pier and headland so there is no profit accruing to the owners from the residential development.

However, because of the work that needs to be carried out to realise the full value of the land there must to be an upfront investment in these works before the scheme can proceed. The plan was to use a £2.6m loan from RIFW to cover this funding hiatus, which would then be repaid in full with interest. Up until now that has not been available to the company and as a result the whole project is on hold.

It is important that we get this project back on track and as a result I have written to the Minister asking her to make a quick decision on how she will be utilising the regeneration fund in the next few months.

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