Tag Archives: Institute of Welsh Affairs

South Wales Transport Bristol VR VTH 941T under threat …

4 June 2016, http://www.clickonwales.org/2016/06/enhancing-the-economic-and-environmental-benefits-of-a-metro/

David Llewellyn says the south Wales Metro has potential to unlock further growth.

As successful city regions throughout the world, such as Stuttgart and Øresund (Copenhagen/Malmö), are increasingly demonstrating, working smarter and more innovatively with our natural environmental assets is necessary and vital for underpinning sustainable economic growth and wellbeing.

 The Cardiff Capital Region Metro provides myriad opportunities to enhance the region’s sustainability. In addition to direct reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and enhanced energy-efficient land use, effective strategic planning should enable create better connected, more cohesive communities. Moreover, the Metro affords great opportunities to maximise the potential of the region’s Green Infrastructure and tourism assets, providing both increased economic and environmental benefits, as well as improving health and well-being, and contributing to the creation of a sustainable, forward-looking city region.

It is understood that a number of options and projects are being considered for Metro, each with its own challenges and benefits. Conversion of the Rhymney Valley Line to light rail, for example, opens up the potential for more frequent services and the re-opening of the line to Treharris via Nelson to passenger services. This brief discussion paper primarily highlights two major ways in which this specific development could support the economic and environmental aims of the Metro. First, linking the Metro effectively with the environmental (and, indeed, heritage) assets that lie close or adjacent to its routes should encourage greater recreational use by local communities and, vitally, add to green growth in the region by helping to develop the still largely untapped potential of responsible tourism in the valleys. Second, development of the transportation corridors themselves can enhance the ecosystem services they provide, boosting resilience to climate change as well as creating biodiversity gains and increases in ecological connectivity.

The natural and cultural assets of the Valleys provide major opportunities to stimulate sustainable regeneration. In the Cardiff Capital Region, direct GVA from tourism is around £535 million supporting an estimated 68,700 direct FTEs. Indirect benefits of tourism extend this with multiplier impacts to a further estimated £250 million expenditure supporting approximately another 8000 FTEs. Although Cardiff generates about 40% of the direct GVA, with the coastal belt also contributing greatly, the contribution of the Valleys is nevertheless substantial. Indeed, through initiatives such as the Valleys Regional Park, the area’s natural and cultural heritage tourism offer has developed greatly in recent years. However, there remains huge scope to develop this further.

The expanding Valleys Cycle Network can develop further as a tourism attraction itself with possible developments such as the reopening of former railway tunnels across the valleys such as that between the Afan and Rhondda Fawr valleys offering great opportunities for cycling tourism particularly as attractions improve their offers for this market. The Metro can also play a key role complementing a programme of enhancement and further development of key green travel routes linking town centres and attractions such as country parks but also the wider countryside, whilst better connecting areas of housing and employment.

Development of the Metro in the Rhymney Valley, with the associated opportunity for conversion of the line across to Treharris through Nelson, will afford enhanced and promoted access to a number of key sites including country parks such as Parc Penallta, Parc Cwm Darran, and Parc Taf Bargoed, and heritage sites such as Butetown and Llancaiach Fawr.

The potential for the Metro to further unlock the tourism potential is enormous by linking cycling and walking routes with the new Light Rail line, increasing cycle parking at stations and providing the opportunities for development of new businesses such as cycle hire and accommodation close by.

These could be integrated; for example, in Belgium, the national rail company offers single B-dag TRIP tickets that offer joint rail travel and entrance to appropriate destinations (it should be borne in mind that many destinations such as museums in Wales are free although attractions such as Caerphilly Castle incur entrance fees) as well as ‘Trein + Huurfiets’ tickets which combine rail travel and bike hire that promote travel to destinations without the need for car use. In Greater Manchester, the recent tram extension to MediaCity at Salford Quays, where there are 300 cycle racks alone, has provided multimodal options linking surrounding areas with the Quays through safe cycling and walking routes.

There are increasing global examples of enhanced coordination of sustainable transportation routes and green infrastructure networks, e.g. through the Verband Region Stuttgart (VRS) in the Stuttgart city region, and in Singapore where there are proposals to preserve areas around rail routes as green corridors to mitigate the effects of ecological fragmentation.

In the US, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District near to Charlottesville, Virginia has made efforts to coordinate GI and transport planning better where the emphasis has been integrating green infrastructure improvements and strategic transport planning rather than simply seeking to offset potential adverse environmental impacts, which is mostly the case at present. In this respect, the Metro offers the chance for the Cardiff Capital Region to be in the vanguard and future-proof transport developments.

The newly-published EU Horizon 2020 programme proposals on Smart, Green and Integrated Transport emphasise the ‘growing need to make infrastructure more resilient, including to climate change, to keep pace with the growing mobility needs and aspirations of people and businesses and to reduce the impact of infrastructure on the environment (air pollution, fragmentation of ecosystems, health and noise)’ with a view to providing innovative and cost-saving approaches to use Green Infrastructure for transport.

In India, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has built a host of eco-friendly energy-efficient features into its developing Badarpur-Faridabad corridor including its first-ever ‘green’ solar sub-station at Faridabad to provide power to a 13.875-km elevated corridor of the route. As reported in Scientific American, there are new development in the US where the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia is combining regenerative braking with new developments in battery storage whilst the new Portland to Milwaukie light railway transit project is aiming to use supercapacitors for storing electricity from regenerative braking. Could similar developments in south east Wales improve energy consumption and efficiency with the intriguing possibility perhaps of producing local energy?

A recent ADAS research report highlighted the benefits of managing ‘soft estate’ areas along green infrastructure corridors adjacent to road and rail lines for enhancements in biodiversity and ecological connectivity. Moreover, it is clear that in doing so, these can also prevent flooding events and the associated negative impacts on passenger travel, such as those seen in the Cynon Valley in December 2013, which are predicted to be more likely to occur through climate change. In Nantes, which was the European Green Capital 2013 and where the current tram system was re-introduced in 1985, green spaces have been developed along the tracks to make it more attractive. In Freiburg, so-called ‘Green Trams’ run on routes where between there is grass between tracks which with adjacent tree planting similarly contributes to noise reduction and this has been combined with the development of pedestrian and cycle routes alongside.

Wales’ New Car Industry …

Institute of Welsh Affairs, ClickOnWales, 2 April 2016.

Gavin Harper says the Welsh automotive industry could do things differently and utilise steel.

In recent months, Wales’ has trumpeted the arrival of new car makers, jobs and industry. The queues for new jobs at a recruitment event for Aston Martin stretch out the door. A spirit of optimism prevailed in the first quarter of 2016 and business in Wales appeared to be on the front foot. Yet before the ink has dried on the newsprint of this great news, Tata’s shock announcement has sent seismic waves through Welsh Industry.

The scale of job losses across Tata’s sites has the potential to devastate families, communities and cause untold misery. But in this highly emotive debate about the future of Tata and with the rush to defend jobs at Tata it is important that we do not lose sight of the opportunities present in the greening of Welsh Industry.

Professor Garel Rhys writes in the Western Mail, 31/03/2016, that Wales’ burgeoning automotive sector could be threatened by the closure of Port Talbot’s steel industry. He goes on to say that the Government’s interest in green policies has sacrificed the UK Steel industry.

I do not believe this to be the case. The firms which the Welsh Government has attracted to Wales offer a potential template for the automotive industry to do things differently. Through lightweight technologies which do not use steel we have the potential to make greener, more efficient vehicles. Alongside developing these new processes and technologies, we also need to seize the opportunities offered by green applications of steel and make cleaner processes our competitive advantage not view them as a burden.

Aston Martin has announced its production of new models at St. Athan (based on an aluminium bonded bodywork structure), TVR have announced production of their new vehicle using Gordon Murray’s ‘iStream’ process in Ebbw Vale. Whilst early versions of this process used thin-walled steel, more recently Gordon Murray Design has announced “iStream Carbon” a process based on lightweight carbon fibre tubes for structure. The panels which clad the iStream structure are lightweight composites, not steel pressings. Also, we should not neglect Riversimple, a car maker with a radical new business model for automobility based in Llandrindod Wells. Their unique, small ‘Rasa; vehicle is also based on carbon fibre bodywork. In a very short period of time, the Welsh Government has managed to attract a number of diverse specialist vehicle manufacturers to Wales.

What do all three of these companies in Wales’ nascent new “motor industry” have in common? None of them are reliant on pressed steel bodywork.

For some time, Prof. Peter Wells & Dr. Paul Nieuwenhuis at Cardiff University’s Centre for Automotive Industry Research have argued that the present automotive industry’s “business model” is based on “pressed steel” bodywork, but that this could be a barrier to future, lightweight, efficient, environmentally sound vehicles. Lightweight vehicles have the potential to be more efficient, cleaner and greener.

Whilst the loss of UK steel could affect volume car makers reliant on pressed steel in other parts of the UK, Wales’ embryonic new car industry does not appear to be reliant on this raw material. Similarly, other high-value added, premium marques such as Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley and Rolls Royce have all been looking to aluminium for lighter weight, more efficient vehicles. Around the world, large car makers like BMW are looking at scaling up carbon fibre production. Wales must look at these emerging industries and see the opportunities for industrial development and our National Innovation System as well as reflecting on our existing capabilities and proud industrial past.

Steel has not yet had its day and has the potential to play a role in a clean, green future economy – only yesterday Tesla announced the launch of their US made “Model 3″ electric car to great fanfare. A clean electric car based on steel bodywork – which is cheap to produce.

In other domains of application, Swansea University’s ‘SPECIFIC’ project has looked at how to use coated steel to transform “buildings into power stations”, applying thin film solar cell coatings to strip steel to enable it to generate electricity.

The car industry is wedded to steel for the time being; but steel vehicle production requires volume and scale. The new entrants which comprise Wales brand-new car industry are using bodywork technologies which are economic at lower scales of production when used to produce vehicles that sell into premium segments, or where novel business models can amortise the total cost of ownership. Here are great opportunities for Wales to develop knowledge, capabilities and innovative technologies that in time could shape and revolutionise the mainstream industry.

The economic case for steel-making in Wales will doubtless be thrashed out in the weeks and months to come. Many are critical of “green levies” that are blamed for making EU steel uncompetitive – yet in clean industrial transformation, Wales must see the opportunities not the barriers.

If it is to compete, Welsh steel needs a level playing field; both economically and also environmentally. It is important for our policymakers to factor in the carbon penalty associated with long steel supply chains from China, and also the carbon intensity of dirty production abroad.

Whilst tariffs or carbon taxes could allow us to make a fairer assessment of the competitiveness of UK steel; we must not shut our eyes to the potential for innovation, new technologies and new business models.  If we do not pursue green policies, we will sacrifice far more than the UK steel industry. Maps showing the sea level rise from anthropogenic climate change show the impact on many coastal villages – climate change is real and it will affect Welsh communities.

Wales’ has the long-term foresight to look to firms exploiting new and innovative technologies – and in time that diversity may prove to be the key to the resilience of the new Welsh motor industry. BMW’s Moses Lake Carbon Fibre plant or Tesla’s Gigafactory all point the way to the clean industries of the future and Wales’ should ensure it looks to its future options as well as its proud heritage.


The Early Years of the DVLA, 31 January, National Waterfront Museum …

Big Data Comes to Wales: the early Years of the DVLA 1965 – 1975

Saturday 31st January 2015, 2pm – 4pm. Admission free.

The National Waterfront Museum, Maritime Quarter, Swansea SA1 3RD

In the mid 1960s the Government decided to centralise Driver and Vehicle licensing, a function at that time undertaken by Local Authorities across the UK. A subsequent decision to computerise the records and licensing processes resulted in the creation of the DVLA, a groundbreaking major public service data processing operation. This event will explore the challenges and achievements of the early years of the organisation, and welcomes contributions from the floor in an open discussion.

The Institute of Welsh Affairs is hosting this event in partnership with Swansea University. The Department of Computer Science and the Information Services and Systems Department of the University have a History of Computing Collection, charting the history of computing and data processing, especially in Wales.


2:00pm          Welcome,

Delith Thorpe, Secretary, IWA Swansea Bay Branch

2:10pm           CLP/DVLC/DVLA – A History,

Professor John Tucker, Computer Science, Swansea University

2:45pm           Centralisation and Computerisation – In the beginning,

Mike Robinson, former Director of IT Services

3:00pm          Open discussion,

Chaired by Prof. John Tucker

4:00pm          Close,

Delith Thorpe

Stuart Cole – M4 Brynglas Tunnels Bypass

Professor Sturart Cole, honoured speaker at Wales on Wheels 2013, argues that congestion on the M4 around Newport could be tackled at almost a third of the cost of the Welsh Government’s proposed relief motorway, according to a new report launched by the IWA today. The report The Blue Route: a cost effective solution to relieving M4 congestion around Newport puts forward an alternative that would cost £380 million compared with the estimated cost of a new motorway of at least £936 million.