Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro: what you need to know

Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro: what you need to know

Plans are afoot to revolutionise our region’s bus and rail network. We caught up with Transport for Wales Strategic Development Programme Manager Ben George to find out what’s in store.

Imagine a future in which the South West Wales rail network is integrated with bus routes, ticketing and timetables, making it possible to seamlessly switch between train and bus to get to your destination. On top of that, picture an enhanced rail network with new stations serving Swansea’s outlying communities and a significantly increased number of trains stopping at stations every hour.

This is the vision for the Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro – a project that is already making headway and will deliver visible results within the coming year. It’s an extension of the much-publicised South Wales Metro, which is being developed for Cardiff and its surrounding communities.

The South Wales Metro will benefit our network by cutting the travel time for trains arriving here from places such as Bristol and London; the Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro will build on this advantage, easing travel across the whole of the South West Wales region.

Ben George, our region’s Transport for Wales Strategic Development Programme Manager, expects the improved bus and train network to have multiple benefits, including linking up communities, reducing road congestion and cutting carbon emissions.

“We’re making frequency and line speed enhancements on the South Wales Main Line, and we’re testing the business case for utilising the Swansea District line, which is really only used for freight at the moment, to enable some trains to get to West Wales quickly,” he says.

“We’re also looking at the business case for getting more trains west to stations such as Fishguard and Pembroke Dock, and we’re examining how to get more trains to people on lesser travelled lines including the Heart of Wales line, which goes up from Ammanford to Shrewsbury.”

On top of this, TFW is reviewing the whole travel experience – for example, examining how people get from a train station to the nearest bus stop.

“TFW is looking at integrated ticketing and aligning timetables so that when you get off your train the bus is really waiting for you,” says Ben. “These are quite complex endeavours, but if you’re going to really make a crack at this and expect people to use this service as a convenient part of daily life, those are the sorts of things that we need to be addressing.”

In the Swansea Bay Area, new stations and new services are set to massively improve rail connectivity.

“There are some really big urban or suburban areas on the line that currently don’t have stations – and so we’re a fair way through examining the business case to establish new stations along that line,” says Ben.

The sites of the possible new stations are Cockett, Landore, Winch Wen, Llandarcy, Morriston, Felindre and Penllergaer. While it’s unlikely that all of these will become a reality, it will certainly become possible to travel by rail between communities that currently have no rail service.

For pre-existing stations, TFW is planning to increase services with an additional two trains per hour, and in some cases possibly three.

The First Minister recently announced another key component of the Metro: the plan to introduce hydrogen buses as a pilot scheme in Swansea Bay and Pembrokeshire. Hydrogen buses may not be the only clean solution to road travel in the region. Plans are already underway to introduce electric bus services running to Carmarthen on TrawsCymru, Wales’ long distance bus network; and in Pembrokeshire and Swansea Bay, TFW is looking to work in partnership with local government to improve journey speed and the reliability of the service.

“This can include putting in bus lanes and advance signals – whatever it takes to get that bus down the road more quickly and reliably,” says Ben. “We’re also in the very early stages of establishing what work needs to be done to introduce hydrogen bus operations in Swansea Bay and Pembrokeshire. We’re doing that to not just to benefit those areas, but to learn lessons for the whole of Wales.

“The Welsh Government has set targets to decarbonise the entirety of Wales’ public transport fleet, getting rid of all our diesel buses and replacing them with something cleaner by the end of the current decade. Hydrogen won’t be the absolute answer in every circumstance, and it’s not well understood in terms of its market dynamics at the moment – so we’re looking to start doing that in Swansea Bay and Pembrokeshire and discover what it takes to run hydrogen buses at scale, in terms of not just purchasing the vehicles and running them, but also how to get enough hydrogen to run a significant bus fleet on a day to day basis.”

Over the next few years, expect to see an improvement to the main major bus corridors in those areas, and then for the buses that run on them to be significantly cleaner than the buses of today.

“The lessons learned will be implemented across Wales, with probably a mix of electric and hydrogen buses, depending on the particular topography and service patterns of each urban centre,” says Ben.

From December this year, the rail frequencies in the region will start to increase, and these will increase again next May. By the end of 2022, TFW expects to have exceeded pre COVID levels of rail service in the region.

“What is less clear at the minute is a firm commitment from Welsh Government and UK Government for the Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro project – and that’s partly because we’re still working through that business case,” says Ben. “Over the next few months, we will be able to articulate that better.”

He adds that the Welsh Government is looking to implement the decarbonisation of Wales’ bus services in a way that benefits the Welsh economy.

“They don’t want to outsource all of that economic investment to other European or world countries, so the deputy minister and his officers are looking at how to retain as much of that investment within the Welsh economy as possible,” says Ben.

“In terms of impact on the average person on the street, there are a currently lot of communities that are centered around railway stations, particularly in the smaller suburbs, that barely realise their railway stations are there. We need to change that perception of the level of service that’s available – and if we can really crack the nut on integrating bus and rail timetables and introduce integrated ticketing, that will make more of an impact than any single railway station or service that we can install. The public needs to see some tangible outcomes from this, and we’re working hard to deliver them.”

Regional Food Conference 2021

Regional Food Conference 2021

FOOD FOR THE REGION

5th & 6th October 2021

A Major Conversation about our Regional Food System, brought to you by Swansea Environmental Forum, Grwp Resilience and 4theRegion.

Hosted over Zoom over two consecutive days, the Regional Food System Conference brought together over 100 people to discuss the issues and opportunities relating to our food system in South West Wales.

The goal was to share perspectives and co-produce priorities for regional collaboration, by creating space for a wide diversity of people to participate in conversations about what’s important, what they’d love to see, and how we can make change happen.

Click here to download the full event report.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAID

Prior to the conference, we invited thought-leaders and experts to discuss their perspectives on key issues and opportunities relating to our regional food system, including Patrick Holden from Sustainable Food Trust, Katie Palmer from Food Sense Wales and Jane Powell from Food Society Wales.

EVENT RECORDING

Catch up on everything that happened over the two-day conference by tuning in to the event recordings below.

ARISING ACTIONS & THEMES

In the face of climate change, worsening wealth and health inequality, and other multi-dimensional crises, food can be a powerful force for good, reconnecting us with our natural world, with our local places, and with each other – and making us more resilient, as people and communities. Given this immense potential, the truth is that none of us is doing enough, to support and scale the healthy, fair and regenerative food system we want to see.

This report sets out what can be done, and what needs to be done, by us all.  We hope you feel inspired to be part of the solution, and to be part of the change you want to see in the world. Keep in touch! There is lots to do!

NEXT STEPS

None of us can transform the regional food system on our own, but by working together with the right vision and level of ambition, our region can lead the way in Wales and the World.  This is just the beginning of an ongoing change process that will involve us all working together over time. We plan to reconvene at approximately 6 monthly intervals to keep things moving forward.

Following the conference, we now have a number of emerging projects for which we are seeking support and involvement.  In Swansea, Bywd Abertawe is a new collaboration seeking to establish Swansea as a “Sustainable Food Place” – please connect with the Bywd Abertawe team.  4theRegion is now talking to a number of food producers, outlets and distributors to explore opportunities for collaboration and scaling-up – a conversation we would welcome you to be part of if you would like to be involved.  And we are planning a programme of work to engage with hospitality businesses in 2022, to explore opportunities for more local sourcing. 

Our full Event Report covers more of the emerging projects, next steps, and ideas for how YOU can support regional food in your community or organisation.  All partners are requested to put the subject of transforming our regional food system onto their upcoming meeting agendas. We invite you to present this report to your colleagues and agree actions appropriate to the scale and influence of your organisation. If you would like us to come and speak at an upcoming meeting, please ask!

We have agreed to keep in touch by means of a regional email list for all those interested in and/or active in transforming our food system. If you have updates or information to share, or if you would like to join the list, please email zoe@4theregion.org.uk

And if you are working in this space, have a project in mind, or would like to fund or support regional initiatives relating to food, please reach out to us so we can connect, amplify and collaborate!

Celebrity chef gives students a taste of culinary career

Celebrity chef gives students a taste of culinary career

An iconic British chef gave a group of students from Gower College Swansea a sneak peek behind the scenes of his Swansea restaurant along with an insight into his inspiring career.

Marco Pierre White, who last year opened his Steakhouse Bar & Grill at the J-Shed in SA1, met up with four of the College’s Catering and Hospitality students earlier this week.

Mr Pierre White held an informal discussion with the students about his career, the industry and provided invaluable hints and tips of the trade.

With a keen interest in the College’s learning programmes, Marco chatted with the students about the College, the ambitions of the students, and the passion and commitment needed to operate at a high level in the industry.

“At the College, we are constantly looking to give our students the very best practical experiences that we can to ensure that they are well prepared for the next stage of their careers,” said Mark Jones, Principal at Gower College Swansea. “Therefore, we are all delighted that some of our Catering and Hospitality students are being given this opportunity to both meet and learn from one of the most well-known and inspirational leaders in this field.”

Gower College Swansea

Swansea Station Shared Vision Meeting

Swansea Station Shared Vision Meeting

SWANSEA STATION SHARED VISION MEETING

South West Wales Connected is hosting community vision meetings across the region, in towns and villages around railway stations, to give local people more of a voice about the challenges and opportunities as they see them. This was the first virtual meeting in Swansea and saw open community discussion exploring opportunities around Swansea railway station and High Street. 

WHAT’S HAPPENING

Swansea city centre is undergoing a major urban transformation project, with over £1 billion being invested across the city, so that Swansea can realise its potential as a vibrant regional capital where people love to live, work, visit and study.

High Street is also seeing some major investments, including new student accommodation, as well as the long-awaited and very exciting refurbishment of the Palace Theatre – an iconic building that the local authority has been able to rescue from complete decline.  Dyfatty shops at the top end of Swansea High Street are also the focus of attention as the council seeks community involvement to identify new uses for these vacant units.

Swansea Railway Station is also undergoing improvements through Transport for Wales’ Station Improvement Vision, while plans for the Swansea Bay Metro are currently out for consultation, aiming to transform the transport network in the Swansea Bay area, boosting the local economy and providing better access to job and leisure opportunities.

So it’s a great time to come together and talk about the future of the station, the high street and the local area!

EVENT AIMS

Broadly speaking, this community meeting was about three interconnected themes:

Creating a greater sense of place and pride of place

Amplifying what is distinctive, positive and strong about local areas – what do we love, what are we most proud of, what do we want to be famous for?

Improving community wellbeing

Giving local people a voice, joining the dots between good things that are happening locally, empowering people to get involved in local projects, and looking at environmental interventions, like green spaces, community gardens, encouraging active travel and engaging young people.

Improving the arrival experience for visitors

What do people see when they get off the train, and how can we make it a more positive experience?  Tackling challenges like way-finding, tourist information, highlighting local attractions and independent businesses, and ensuring connectivity with the best that the local area has to offer.

WATCH THE WHOLE CONVERSATION

WHAT WE LOVE

Despite the challenges in this part of the city centre, there is so much to be positive about – strengths and assets that we can build on as we seek to breathe life into the area.  Throughout the discussion, people shared the things they love about Swansea and the high street, including the friendliness of the community, the independent businesses, the fact that we are a small city with our own identity, the entrepreneurial and creative spirit, and the way High Street can be regarded as the closest we’ve got to “our own version of Camden town”.

People acknowleged that there is a lot of work to do to amplify “the good stuff”, given the problems of antisocial behaviour and also the challenge of recovering from COVID – but these are just some of the things people highlighted as our existing assets:

  • The variety of independent businesses
  • The High Street is the gateway to Swansea. The station is a key to getting more visitors to the city.
  • Lots of new developments – investment is happening.
  • Recent developments have enhanced the ‘city feel’ – high rise, high density.
  • The willingness and desire to create change from the community, businesses and key partners.
  • Real people, not too posh, affordable, down to earth.
  • Architecture, historic buildings, many of which are listed. Palace Theatre, Maritime Quarter, YMCA building, churches.
  • Heritage, people remember the old Swansea which such fondness.
  • Close proximity to stunning natural assets including Kilvey Hill, River Tawe, Gower and the coastline.
  • Strong creative and arts culture.
  • Pop-up galleries, exhibitions and creative events are a common occurrence in Swansea.
  • We are a City of Sanctuary (Wales’ first, UK’s second)
  • Swansea’s culture is its heart.
  • A warm welcome and hospitality from the community.

WHAT WE WANT

  • Swansea’s history needs to be more widely celebrated – Industrial revolution, Swansea was key.
  • Connectivity across the city is disjointed. Improved signposting to our coastline, local parks, places of interest.
  • Improved connection between the railway station and bus station – frequent circuit buses around the city centre? Adopt an approach similar to the Swansea Bay Rider Land Train.
  • Repurpose the High Line for increased connectivity. Could this be linked through to the Quakers burial ground?
  • Adoption of a Totally Locally style approach: Maps, guides.
  • A brighter and more welcoming station. The waiting room in the station made to feel more inviting, safer. Safer spaces for women.
  • Increased level of safety, better lighting, security around quieter areas, pedestrian tunnels, etc.
  • More green spaces, allotment spaces, green roofs, sustainable developments.
  • Spaces within and surrounding Swansea railway station used as a community hub. Spaces that could be hired for business meetings, workshops and events.
  • Areas of play – outdoor play and exercise equipment should be in the city. Existing areas of outdoor play are far from the city centre.
  • Bike hire close to the station, encouragement of active travel to move around the city.
  • More focus on pedestrian and cyclist friendly routes, encouragement of on-foot spending.
  • Direct connection down to river from the station  and establish a ‘view’ from station to coastal area.
  • Make the station and surrounding area less impersonal, welcome the involvement of local people, such as Swansea Community Workshop and other groups with creative input.
  • De-pave and get a rain garden out front of the train station.
  • Full shared surface across the whole of the junction at the station – a public square with access for buses , bikes and green.

GREEN SPACES

Green space, nature and play emerged as key themes from the discussion.  In this video, Owen Griffiths from Ways of Working presents our proposals for bringing nature to the area around High Street Station – a project that we are currently bidding for funding to deliver on behalf of the Community Rail Partnership.

 

CONTACT

To get involved with ongoing actions, please get in touch or join our Swansea Shared Vision group on Facebook. 

Everyone is welcome and everyone has a valuable contribution to make. Please email zoe@4theregion.com and jennifer@southwestwales.co for more details.

South West Wales Connected aims to facilitate community-led initiatives and provide a forum for local people to have a voice.  We want to break down silos and enable more sharing of information with and among the local community.  We will lobby on behalf of communities to make change happen, and we can’t do anything without the support and involvement of local people – so please get involved and spread the word so that together we can make positive things happen!

PARTICIPANTS

As well as local residents representing the community around Swansea station, this discussion brought together many local organisations keen to be part of changemaking initiatives.

  • Neil Barry – Swansea Community Green Spaces Project
  • Leonie Ramondt – Swansea Co Housing
  • Owen Griffiths – Artist, Ways of Working
  • Amanda Davies – Swansea Bay University Health Board 
  • Amy Beuse – Local Area Coordinator, Dyfatty
  • Claire Savage – Pattern Design, Swansea College of Art
  • Claudine Conway – Volcano Theatre
  • David Toft – Fresh Creative Co
  • Huw Williams, Andrew – Coastal Housing
  • Paul – Rail Passengers Committee
  • Jo – Mixtup
  • John Davies – BayTrans
  • John Sayce – Wheelrights 
  • Laura Gill – Glynn Vivian
  • Phillip McDonnell – Swansea Environmental Forum
  • Paul Relf – Economic Development, Swansea Council
  • Demery, Roberts – PSCO, British Transport Police
  • Rhiannon-Jayne Raftery – Community Rail Network
  • Hugh Evans, Arron Bevan-John – Transport for Wales
  • Thom Lynch – Matt’s House
  • Vikki Butler – CARP Collaborations
  • Ben Reynolds – Urban Foundry

ABCD

Circular Economy Members Forum

Circular Economy Members Forum

Circular Economy Members Forum – February 2021

Thank you to our members who attended our Circular Economy Members Forum. What’s working well in the sector? What are the strengths and assets that we can work on? This report covers discussion from our members working in the circular economy sector.

WHAT’S WORKING WELL?

    • Wales is excelling in recycling figures, with a record high recycling rate reported from Welsh Government for 2019/20. 
    • The region has enthusiasm and pride to take action and get things done.
    • Departments across government and local authorities are working together better than ever.
    • Academia and research surrounding the circular economy is strong.
    • Many small businesses and organisations are engaged in positive work surrounding the circular economy, such as our members Smile Plastics, Cwm Environmental, Ministry of Furniture and Castell Howell.
    • Interest in the circular economy is growing in all sectors; Government, public bodies and public and private sectors.
    • Communities are becoming more aware and educated on their waste. Increased incentive for local action.
    • Lockdown may have had an impact on increased waste awareness, local buying and procurement. The importance has been highlighted more than ever.
    • Larger companies are working with smaller businesses and community organisations to make change happen.
    • Large infrastructure bodies such as the National Grid, Western Power, Wales and West Utilities are all developing plans for radical changes in decarbonisation. 

WHAT WOULD UNLOCK OPPORTUNITY?

  • Harnessing the elements – wind, water, solar – good companies showcasing the region, communities companies and world leading projects eg offshore wind. 
  • Small businesses struggle to get their foot in the door. Complicated public sector procurement process. Smaller businesses can be put off by the process.
  • The problem is that contracts tend to lump together different aspects which are difficult for a small business to supply. Larger businesses offer multiple services/products.
  • Umbrella organisation to take local companies under its shelter. Could 4theRegion join together regional companies to bid in?
  • Regulatory barriers – construction etc – can you replace a constructive activity with a benign one.   Barriers kill so many initiatives
  • “Have we got a regional inferiority complex?”  Give people the confidence to realise they can make a difference? How do we give people confidence and amplify positivity?
  • Sharing best practice – need to show that it’s possible to use the principles of circular economy to the people who assume not. Giving people the tools and knowledge to explore these options and do them effectively.
  • Opportunities at regional gateways, e.g. railway stations, that makes a statement about our region’s CE credentials.

ACTIONS

  • WRAP have mapped the plastics manufacturers in the region. They will be expanding this map for paper/fibre products in the future.
  • Castell Howell is working with WRAP by supporting the public sector around sustainable procurement.

  • Project Metal at Swansea University are currently developing a circular economy (CE) course.
  • Circular Economy Innovation Communities (CEIC) are working to embed CE in the public space.
  • Egni Co-op are working on new CE projects in Neath Port Talbot.
  • Interest in 4theRegion reconvening a circular economy conference, following on from the Empowering Future Generations conference held in June 2018.

PARTICIPANTS

  • Andy Rees – Welsh Government
  • Dan McCallum – Egni Co-op
  • Hugh Evans – Transport for Wales
  • Rosalie McMillan – Smile Plastics
  • Ross Briscoe – Natural Resources Wales
  • William Mansfield – Natural Resources Wales
  • Tony Burnett – CEIC Project
  • Ant Flanagan – Gower Power
  • Bettina Gilbert – WRAP Cymru
  • Edward Morgan – Castell Howell
  • Elfed Roberts – Pobl Group
  • Kate McCabe – Pobl Group
  • Emily Bacon – CEIC Project
  • Michael Shakib – Swansea University. Project Metal
  • Philip McDonnell – SEF/ LCSB
  • Vicky – Resilience Network Pembrokeshire
  • Rebecca Pedrick-Case – Retonio

CONTACT

If you would like to be a part of future member conversations, please refer to our Eventbrite page. We are convening a number of member forums dedicated to various sectors. For further information, or if you would like to join 4theRegion and get involved with the conversation, please contact zoe@4theregion.com