Last week 4theRegion hosted our City Centre Conference. We’re so proud to have been the first major exhibitor at the new Swansea Arena – which looks amazing! We had over a hundred and twenty exhibitors and over two thousand five hundred people registered to attend.

We all have a part to play in the transition to a greener, healthier, more equal, more integrated, more accessible and more affordable transport system (Pic: MART PRODUCTION)

Even before our conference had taken place interest in Swansea Arena was already skyrocketing. They expect their calendar to be pretty much full for the next six months, but say they’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the potential for city wide events. These events would involve the arena working with hotels and other venues across the city. We’d see the hotels fully booked and Swansea really put on the map for conferences!

Of course it isn’t just conference goers that we’ll be welcoming to our wonderful region. An integrated, sustainable travel network is essential to prosperity and wellbeing, with tourism being a key economic driver for South West Wales. And we all have a part to play in the transition to a greener, healthier, more equal, more integrated, more accessible and more affordable transport system. We need to work collaboratively to address the challenges we face, to create flourishing local places, connected by inclusive and sustainable transport that meets the needs of businesses, serves communities, and improves wellbeing across the region.

So how do we get there?

How about a rail network integrated with bus routes, ticketing and timetables, so that you can seamlessly switch between trains and buses to get to your destination? This is the vision for the Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro. It’ll also offer an enhanced rail network with new stations serving Swansea’s outlying communities and a significantly increased number of trains stopping at stations every hour. An extension of the much publicised South Wales Metro, developed for Cardiff and the surrounding area, we’ve been told the Swansea Bay and West Wales Metro will start to deliver visible results this year.

Another key component of the Metro are plans to introduce hydrogen buses as part of a pilot scheme in Swansea Bay and Pembrokeshire. And these aren’t the only clean solution to road travel in the region. Eight electric buses will replace diesel buses on the route between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth by the end of this year.

But of course it isn’t just about public transport. How do we travel more sustainably as individuals and businesses? For some people the solution might be an e-bike. You pedal it like a regular bike but it has a battery to get you more easily up hills or to enable you to cover longer distances. But how do you know if one would be right for you? Well how about a free trial? If you live in Swansea, Sustrans could offer you a four week trial of an e-bike absolutely free!

But an even more exciting travel solution is an e-cargo bike! If you’re a business in Swansea business you could be eligible for a three month trial to see if one of them could be right for you. This too is absolutely free!

Could an e-cargo bike benefit your business? Research has found e-cargo bikes make deliveries about 60% faster than vans in city centres. Vans can obviously travel along clear stretches of road much faster, but they get slowed down by congestion and have to spend time looking for parking spaces. E-cargo bikes, on the other hand, can bypass traffic jams, take shortcuts through streets closed to through traffic and ride directly to the customer’s door. On average, e-cargo bikes will drop off ten parcels an hour, compared to six parcels for vans. They also cut carbon emissions by 90% compared with diesel vans, and by a third compared to electric vans. Recent estimates suggest that up to 51% of all freight journeys in European cities could be replaced by e-cargo bikes.

And what else do we want to see?

We think transport should be regarded as a universal basic service – like healthcare and education. Low cost, or better still free, public transport is central to creating a healthier, more equal, more prosperous region and achieving Wales’ climate emergency commitments. We also need much more infrastructure for charging electric vehicles across the region, but we’re not sure private electric cars are the answer or will, in themselves, be enough to address the climate crisis or transport inequality. So how about EV car share projects, which would be supported in communities and by employers? This would ensure everyone has access to a car, without actually needing to own one.

An integrated, sustainable travel network is essential to prosperity and wellbeing. At 4theRegion, we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can get there. Read our Transport Manifesto to find out more.

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