Rural bus pilot projects in Ceredigion

In April it was announced that Ceredigion and Vale of Glamorgan Councils had each won £100,000 worth of funding  to run rural transport pilot projects. 

In Ceredigion’s case, part of this is now being used to run Cludiant Cors Caron - a free transport scheme in the Tregaron area. 

In the public transport game, £100,000 doesn’t actually buy very much and is being given in the context of an overall 25% loss of bus funding across Wales. So making the best use of resources is essential. The Council quickly recognised that there were already a number of small buses running regularly in the area specifically to transport people to social services and health venues. It made absolutely sense that these regular journeys, taking place anyway for particular client groups, should be properly timetabled and opened up to the wider community. 

Cludiant Cors Caron Services are now timetabled and run for the wider community on a dial-a ride basis, with Ystwyth Community Transport Group being funded to co-ordinate the scheme.

The next pilot project, and one which will arguably have a greater effect, is the extension of child fairs on buses up to the age of 21. This will allow all young people in Ceredigion - a key group in terms of access to transport - to reach work and training more cheaply. Local buses companies, to their credit, have recognised the potential and agreed to take part and a scheme is due to commence early in the new year.

The key issue for rural areas is that, because of their relatively low population, bus services are never likely to be economically viable in the conventional sense of making a profit. And yet those services are absolutely vital for people who are unable to drive, particularly the elderly, the young and the less well-off. Without these people being able to get about, rural life would start to break  down.

At a time when many public services are being cut, not least in rural areas, buses are becoming even more important for people to be able to access remaining services. Along with Bwcabus - now running across roughly half of Ceredigion - these latest pilot projects will help to inform Welsh Government’s thinking about how to target support for rural areas and, if successful, may be extended into other parts of Wales.


Mid Wales Healthcare Study - Public Events

The Mid Wales Healthcare Study, put together by Marcus Longley on behalf of the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care, has given a great deal of hope and reassurance to everyone who has been campaigning for Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth. These public events below will give everyone the chance to contribute further to the debate.


Ceredigion's Carbon Management Plan

This is a talk I gave at the meeting in Llanfarian school on 9th October:

When surveys are run on the most important issue in different constituencies in Wales, the most important issue to people in Ceredigion is health. No surprises there. And it’s the same in many other places. 

But when people are asked what's the second most important issue, in Ceredigion the answer is the environment. That’s completely different to most other places, where green issues are way down the list.

So it’s clear there's a greater awareness and interest in environmental matters in Ceredigion. And the County Council administration reflects that by placing a high importance on making a real contribution to tackling climate change.

The main plank of that is that, since getting elected to run the Council, almost two and a half years ago now, we’ve put together a new Carbon Management Plan in consultation with the Carbon Trust.

The aim in the plan is to reduce the Council’s carbon emissions by 15% over five years. And you have to bear in mind that, in normal circumstances, emissions wouldn’t just be expected to stay the same but would actually rise. 

We’re now two years into this 5-year programme and we’ve achieved 7.4% - almost half. So, in other words, after 40% of the time, we’ve achieved 49% of the target.

To do this we’ve had to involve all areas of the Council and in particular we’ve had to look very closely at the Council’s operational building stock, including our schools, because they are the least energy-efficient part of the stock - 69% of the Council’s emissions are from buildings.

I’ll just highlight a few steps we’ve taken:
  • The street lighting programme, of changing to LED bulbs has saved 57% of carbon compared to 2007 and Ceredigion’s lights are now one of the most energy efficient in the UK.
  • We’ve invested in more efficient fleet vehicles and better ways of working with them. Those emissions have reduced by 8.7% in the past two years.
  • We’ve been running Operation Energy in selected schools in the county for the past three years. This encourages individual pupils to take part in energy reduction themselves. We give a certificate to every pupil taking part and a prize to the best performing school each year. So far 24 local schools have participated.
  • One of the clearest savings has been the new Evaporative Cooling System at Canolfan Rheidol. That cost £42,000 and it saves £26,000 a year in energy costs. So it pays for itself in less than 2 years. And that, of course, highlights how the carbon agenda and the massive financial cuts all councils are now being subject to can come together. Carbon savings like this do require an initial investment. And most of the financial savings take a longer than 20 months.
Although we’re making good progress, of course there’s plenty more to do. These are the kinds of things we’ve got planned for the future:
  • We’ll be installing a 50Kw solar array on the roof of the Council offices at Penmorfa in Aberaeron - the county’s second highest user of energy - and a 30Kw system on Minaeron, the social services offices in Aberaeron.
  • You may be aware of the biomass heating system that serves Canolfan Rheidol and the Welsh Government building in Aberystwyth. The system is housed across the railway tracks in a building in Penweddig school fields. Over the Summer holidays we dug trenches across the playing fields. And soon we’ll be making the connections to extend the biomass system to include Ysgol Penweddig and Plas Crug Leisure Centre. So that single biomass system will be servicing four large buildings. That will produce an annual RHI (Renewable heat Incentive) income of around £95,000 p.a.
  • At Ysgol Bro Pedr in Lampeter we’ll be installing an SBED  Solar Collector. This will bring about a carbon saving of 14 tons, and £2000 saved p.a. in gas bills.
So those are the kinds of things we’ve been doing, and will be doing in the future, to meet our carbon reduction targets

As well as that we’re embedding carbon management within the Council’s practices. For example:
  • The creation of a specialist energy department within the Council.
  • The installation of automatic meter reading in all our buildings so we know exactly how they’re performing all the time and have the data to know what energy issues need to be tackled. 
  • The creation of council structures to make sure carbon management is centrally resourced and prioritise rather than being the responsibility of just one department.
So, as well as meeting our targets in the present, we’re planning for the future. Future council administrations will find life easier in terms of reducing carbon emissions and easier financially as a result of the decisions we’re making today.