- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature
Speed has been on the political agenda in recent weeks. At the beginning of November the Welsh Government and BT announced that more than 275,000 premises in Wales can now access superfast broadband. That means they’re on track to deliver fast fibre broadband to 96% of Wales by the spring of 2016.
Towns and villages covered by the government’s Powys Local Growth Zones project have been prioritised under the Superfast Cymru roll-out. LLandrindod Wells is next in line for the upgrade, with work scheduled to start next month. Work is also underway to make sure the town and surrounding areas benefit from the £150 million Mobile Infrastructure Project, which will deliver better coverage to mobile ‘notspots’.
Another speedy project that’s on track is for more train services on the Heart of Wales line. From next May, four additional peak hourly trains will run between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury on a three-year trial basis. Wales’ current rail franchise, which was awarded to Arriva Trains Wales in 2003, comes to an end in 2018. As talks get underway for the next lucrative contract, I have urged the Welsh Government to put more services for mid and west Wales firmly on the negotiating table. At a recent Assembly Question Time, the First Minister told me that a lot depends on whether or not the franchise is devolved to Wales from Westminster, which he is pushing for.
On the roads, meanwhile, residents of Llanhamlach, Nant Ddu and Llanspyddid want to reduce speed. Their campaign for a 40mph limit on the A470 has attracted a lot of attention. I have campaigned for years for more 20mph limits in built-up areas, and I travel up and down the A40 most weeks, getting about the Mid and West Wales region, so I have taken a keen interest in the campaign. The Welsh Government is currently reviewing all speed limits on the trunk road network; the review is due to be completed by the end of December. At the Senedd, I asked the First Minister to make sure that residents’ views are heard. He said senior officials have already met with lots of communities and assured me they would also be seeking views from community councils before the final report is published early next year.
Finally, on Remembrance Day we pause to think and give thanks. I went to Flanders last month to commemorate Welsh sacrifices in the First World War, as part of a delegation from the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. It was an honour to lay a wreath at the newly unveiled Welsh memorial, designed by Welsh artist Lee Odishow. The 8ft dragon statue in the town of Langemark is the first Welsh World War 1 memorial in Belgium. It was a moving occasion. It is a hundred years since British and Irish people stood together to fight against threatening forces on the continent of Europe. A generation of sons never came home. The new memorial, with its imposing standing stones, capped by the magnificent Draig Goch, is emblematic of Wales and a fitting tribute to the great many Welsh soldiers who lost their lives.