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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Timetable extended at Lllangollen Railway


* The longitudinal beams are craned into place at the new Corwen station.

The re-born Llangollen Railway is now running trains from Tuesdays right through to Sundays.

They will be using their heritage railcar which gives a panoramic driver's-eye-view of the line and the Dee Valley. 

Services depart Llangollen every hour from 11am until 4pm, and from Berwyn every hour from 11.25am until 4.25pm. Return tickets cost £8 for adults, £7 for seniors and £4 for children. Tickets are available to purchase on the day. 

Currently the trains are running between Llangollen and Berwyn but the railway hopes to extend services further up the line in the next few weeks and more details will be posted soon.

The reintroduction of highly popular steam services is also proposed for later this month.

* The massive longitudinal beams for the canopy on the waiting room at the new Corwen station have been installed. 

These connect with the columns around the stairway and the steelwork for the waiting room. 

* Railway bosses have welcomed the introduction of a new bus service with connections to Corwen and Llangollen, two of its most important stops.

The Trawscymru T10 service links Corwen with Bangor via Betws y Coed and Bethesda.

It also connects with the T3 service at Corwen for connections to/from Llangollen and Wrexham.

The service operates seven days per week and all journeys are operated by modern comfortable coach style vehicles.

The T10 buses connect with the Snowdon Sherpa network at Betws y Coed and Capel Curig and link with train services at Bangor and Betws y Coed stations.

Mazda MX-5 still reigns supreme for open-air motoring


* The open-top Mazda MX-5 roadster.

* The MX-5's cabin.


* The electric Mazda CX-30.

Mazda charging for change by Steve Rogers

Whatever your views on air pollution and the switch to electric cars we are on a journey into the unknown.

The big switch to electric is scheduled for 2030 but some motoring industry insiders are sceptical that the UK will be ready, leaving us with more questions than answers.

Will there be enough charging stations, how will people living in terraced houses, let alone high rise flats, charge an electric car?

How are the tens of thousands running motability vehicles going to cope with the higher cost of electric cars? How will we get rid of the 40 million ICE (that is the buzz word for the internal combustion engine) vehicles on our roads and what about the batteries that will have to be binned?

Or is there a different route? Mazda's UK boss Jeremy Thomson revealed what is going on behind the scenes both in Europe and Japan to create carbon free synthetic petrol and diesel products without the cost of changing to electric.

At a driving day to showcase updates to the Mazda range Thomson told me that although committed to becoming carbon free, the company was not giving up on the internal combustion engine which will still power the majority of its cars through 2030.

He said: "We remain committed to creating the ideal internal combustion engine and are getting closer to that perfect engine in terms of emissions and efficiency. Synthetic or renewable carbon neutral light fuel that can replace carbon based fuel is the way forward."

Mazda has only one electric model, the MX-30, but that is set to change with three electric, five hybrid and five plug-in hybrids being rolled out over the next four years.

Like the rest of the car world Mazda is recovering from the catastrophic pandemic and is relieved at a 55 per cent rise in post Covid sales against an industry average of 39 per cent.

Updates to the model range this year centre around boosting the Skyactiv petrol engines, improving infotainment and connected services and pumping out special editions of old favourites to keep the kettle boiling.

The biggest name in Mazda is the ubiquitous MX-5 roadster but has this got a future in the brave new electrical world, or is it sitting on death row?

Jeremy Thomson was giving little away but said: "The car is central to the Mazda brand and remains one of our best known lines, so of course it will need to evolve but always retain that amazing fun to drive feeling."

Even after 30 odd years the MX-5 reigns supreme as far as wind in the hair motoring goes. The car is an out and out gem and to keep interest alive a Sport Venture special has been introduced with nappa leather interior, sliver door mirrors and silver roll hoops.

In terms of horse power 130 doesn't sound a lot but with its high revving engine in such a light body the roadster is plenty quick enough. Mazda has perfected the opening mechanism and the soft top can be opened or closed in around five seconds.

The car's infotainment unit, operated via a rotary controller between the seats, has always been easy to use but needs to be brought in line with the faster system on CX-30 and CX-5.

My top Mazda is CX-30 which is a bulked up Mazda3 but because of its sleek design looks nothing like the sports utilities cum crossovers it competes against. As the newest ICE model it gets the upgraded e-Skyactiv X engine that has lower engine emissions, a boost in horse power and economy along with the upgraded infotainment system with its larger screen, faster response, connected services, and it still has a rotary controller. Hooray!.

Unlike Toyota and Honda who have dropped diesel in favour of petrol hybrids for Rav4 and CR-V SUVs, Mazda is sticking with a diesel option for CX-5 which will please caravan owners who are wondering where to turn after 2030.

The model also gets the flagship 190bhp 2.5 litre Skyactiv-G engine until now only available in the Mazda6.

On the safety front Mazda will next year reveal an autonomous driving system that will monitor the driver and take control if the driver falls asleep or is incapacitated, park in a safe place and make an emergency call.

Fast Facts

MX-5 Sport

£26,355 (starts £24,055)

2-litre petrol; 130bhp

0-62mph 8.3secs; 127mph

44.8mpg combined

142g/km. 1st VED £215

Insurance group 27

Boot 130 litres 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Call for action to stop off-roaders using green lanes

* From left, Liz Hughes, Rheinallt Hughes, Mike Crawshaw, Llyr Gruffydd MS, Councillor Trevor Bates, Glyn Jones and Alan Gardner from Agrisgôp Leader.  

Farmers in the Ceiriog Valley have met with Plaid Cymru's North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd to make their case for action to prevent off-roaders, who they say often turn up in gangs with uninsured and untaxed vehicles, from using green lanes into the Berwyn range.  

Mr Gruffydd says the problem also affects a countryside area of Llangollen. 

The farmers met the MS on the Wayfarers track going from Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog over to Llandrillo near Corwen, an old drovers' track that has become impassable over the years due to neglect and damage caused by the off-roaders. 

Llyr Gruffydd said: "Farmers are at their wits' end in dealing with some off-roaders who are abusive, violent and confrontational. The farmers are trying to go about their work and earn a living while off-roaders damage property, frighten livestock and leave gates unclosed.  

"The green lanes that the off-roaders favour are becoming more damaged with overuse and a variety of agencies - including the Welsh Government - seem unable or unwilling to act. 

"I was glad to be listen to the situation first-hand, as I have with farmers on the other side of the Berwyn range in the Llandrillo and Cynwyd area. 

"There have also been problems in the Llangollen area, notably Allt y Badi. 

"This is not an isolated problem of course - it affects many parts of Wales and that's why I think we need a more joined-up approach to resolving it for the benefit of local residents and responsible users of these important pathways and lanes. 

"The police have a role here and I was glad to hear compliments about former Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones who had taken an interest in this matter. 

"The new PCC needs to follow up on that and the police have a part to play in stamping out criminality. Other agencies including the local council, Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales as well as landowners and those seeking to use these routes for their leisure also need to come together.

"The problem in the past is that no one organisation has taken responsibility or ownership of the issue. 

"Given the extent of the problem, that neglect from the various authorities can't continue." 

Also in attendance at the meeting was local councillor Trevor Bates and Alan Gardner, who has been supporting a group of local farmers to face the challenges and develop solutions through Farming Connect’s Agrisgôp programme, delivered by Menter a Busnes on behalf of the Welsh Government.

Volunteer drivers needed for community transport scheme

* South Denbighshire Community Partnership’s transport team, from left, Tom Taylor, Maggie Harding and volunteer driver Bob Jaques.

A successful Denbighshire community transport scheme is appealing for volunteer drivers as it continues its expansion into Llangollen.

South Denbighshire Community Partnerships not-for-profit scheme is travelling further afield as it helps elderly and vulnerable people to get out and about.

As part of a £500,000 three-year initiative SDCP have extended their services along the Dee Valley to Llangollen and its surrounding villages from its base in Corwen.

The partnerships social inclusion services include a dial-a-ride facility, luncheon club, meals-on-wheels, leisure excursions and shopping trips.

But a bigger area means more drivers are needed to keep the charity’s fleet of six grant-funded vehicles busy so it has launched an appeal for volunteers to join the loyal pool of 18 drivers who donate their time each week.

South Denbighshire Community Partnership transport co-ordinator for Corwen and Llangollen Maggie Harding said: All our drivers are volunteers and they are our lifeblood. Without them generously giving up their time we wouldn’t be able to run any services.

As of now we have 18 volunteers but five operate the daily meals on wheels and only six of our pool have the documentation to drive the mini-bus.

Now we’ve a larger area to cover we really need more volunteers to help us reach people in outlying villages with limited transport.

If anyone has a couple of hours to spare on a morning or afternoon any day of the week, wed love to hear from them.

The more drivers were able to call on, the more comprehensive services we can offer across our bigger area.

Anyone interested in being a volunteer driver can call Maggie on 01490 266004.

Maggie added: Many service users live in rural locations where public transport is not a viable option for them to attend local events, social gatherings or even get to clinic and hospital appointments.

“It’s our mission to get them where they need to be via as smooth-running an operation as possible.

It’s our aim to reduce social isolation among community members who struggle to get out and assist them to participate fully in community activities.

SDCP say there has never been a greater need for the service which has adapted to continue its service even at the height of lockdown.

Pre-pandemic, drivers ferried people to destinations in dedicated vehicles, but in lockdown they couldn’t take passengers so they delivered prescriptions, shopping and activity packs instead.

Bob Jaques became a driver just before the pandemic struck. He said: Many of our usual activities had to be stopped due to social distancing but we managed to adapt.

“I and several other drivers would pick up and deliver prescriptions for people using our own cars. We’d drop them off ensuring there was the required distance between us and each recipient.”

Now Bob is happy to be back driving people around in the community fleet and he said: I recently took out a lady in a wheelchair with her daughter carer. She’d been shielding for 16 months unable to go anywhere.

“It was quite emotional seeing their delight at finally getting out. Thats why we became volunteers – to bring people together, help them overcome mobility issues and let them know they’re all valued members or our community.

Maggie said take up of Meals on Wheels soared during lockdown as the Luncheon Club in Canolfan Ni, Corwen, had to close and they have delivered 4,000 meals in the Corwen area since the start of lockdown.

Services are returning as pandemic restrictions ease though some social distancing measures remain.

The Luncheon Club is back up and running but wider spacing of tables means it can only cater for 15 diners instead of the pre-pandemic 40 while the 14-seater mini-bus is only carrying a maximum of seven people.

Tom Taylor, SDCP Strategic Implementation Officer, said: Our entire organisation pulled together to inject flexibility into our usual operations. We continued to communicate with users and provide the most assistance possible even at the peak of lockdown.

The fact that we’re now extending our boundaries into Llangollen is another big achievement which we’re all very excited about.

They have adopted dial-a-ride from the Rotary Club in Dee Valley and he said: “This is a lifeline for many residents particularly in outlying villages so we absorbed it and are working hard to provide a comprehensive service for all those who need it in both areas.

“More volunteer drivers would help us meet every user’s needs but meantime its all hands to the pump to minimise social isolation and make sure the vulnerable know we’re here for them.

The Llangollen area merger means the community transport scheme acquired an extra vehicle, a smart wheelchair-accessible Vauxhall Caddy.

Maggie said: Its named Brian after Brian Evans, the Rotarian who inspired Rotary to establish the dial-a-ride service in Llangollen. We aim to get it made-over like our others into South Denbighshire Community Partnership livery.” 

They also transferred a Toyota Rav electric-petrol hybrid from Dee Valley, originally funded by the National Lottery and have christened her Tanya.

The others include Percy – a Peugeot Partner funded by the Morrisons Foundation, with an oven and fridge compartment for meals on wheels prepared in Canolfan Ni Community Centre kitchens by a catering team and delivered to registered customers five days a week.

For dial-a-ride requests the team use two electric vehicles Morgan the MG Excite, funded by the National Lottery, and Neli the Nissan Leaf, funded by Cadwyn Clwyd.

These ferry people into town for hospital or GP appointments, to hairdressers, group exercise sessions, meetings run by MIND, organised social events, or just to visit friends. Membership is £15 per person annually plus a token running costs charge for each journey.

Maggie said: We also have our marvellous Citroen Relay mini-bus, Bryn, administered by Denbighshire County Council, which can also take a wheelchair.

“We use it to bring residents from Edeyrnion to twice-weekly lunch clubs, a weekly shopping trip, picking up and dropping them off at people’s front doors to take them to local stores in Llangollen.

“The mini-bus is also used for excursions. Trips so far have included to Llandudno and Barmouth, with others planned later in the season if the pandemic rules allow.

The bus is a huge community asset. Ideally we could do with two or better still, three.

The Community Transport Schemes services are now well established in the Edeyrnion area covering Corwen and the villages of Cynwyd, Carrog, Llandrillo, Llidiart y Parc, Glyndyfrdwy, Betws Gwerfyl Goch, Melin y Wig, Gwyddelwern and Brynegwlys.

Now the scheme has pushed further into Dee Valley it also covers Llangollen and neighbouring villages of Pentredwr, Pengwern, Eglwyseg, Llantysilio and Rhewl.

* For more information about the scheme and South Denbighshire Community Partnership services call 01490 266 004, visit www.canolfan-ni.org or email: office@sdcp.org.

Monday, August 2, 2021

MP cuts the ribbon to open new Llan business


* At the ribbon-cutting ceremony are, from left, Gaynor Gee, Patricia Wooding, Rebekah Price and her husband Tom, Simon Baynes MP, Karen Johnstone, Madison Griffiths and Courtney Greenwood. 

Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes cut the ribbon to officially open the new Finley's Cafe and Sandwich Bar on Abbey Road this morning (Monday).

Owner Rebekah Price said the venture, which has created four jobs, had fulfilled a long-standing dream for her.

Rebekah took over the lease on the former ice cream parlour only a matter of weeks ago but has since put in a new floor and additional seating downstairs to create a total of 24 to 25 covers on two floors.

She originally moved into the old newsagents shop next door seven years ago and transformed it into a sandwich bar.

Another feature of her new, expanded enterprise is a small door which connects the two adjacent businesses so staff can move easily between the two sides.

Rebekah employed two staff in the sandwich bar but has taken on four more - all local people - for the twin businesses, which are open each day from 7.30am-4.30pm.

The new cafe will serve all-day breakfasts, sandwiches, a variety of home-made cakes and the usual teas and speciality coffees, using as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible.

Declaring the new venture open, Simon Baynes MP said: "It's good to see another new business opening in the town and I wish Rebekah and her team every success." 

Ambulance service urges public to use life-saving app

Welsh Ambulance Service is asking the public to download a life-saving app which helps it to find people in remote locations in an emergency.

The Trust has used what3words to locate more than 800 ill or injured people in hard-to-reach areas since it introduced the technology in February 2020.

what3words has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares, and has given each square a unique combination of three words.

///validated.deeds.nature, for example, will take you to the Tommy Jones Obelisk in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Giving this unique three-word combination to 999 operators in an emergency means they can establish your precise location.

what3words is now used by more than 85% of UK emergency services.

Gill Pleming, Clinical Contact Centre Manager at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “what3words has proven to be such a hugely valuable tool since we launched it last year, helping us to locate 800 ill or injured people in remote locations who otherwise we would have struggled to find.

“With the popularity of ‘staycations’ on the rise, we’re anticipating more visitors to Wales than ever before, which is why we would urge the public to download this free app now in order to save precious time in an emergency.”

Downloading what3words is one of the simplest actions the public can take to support stretched emergency control rooms.

The app is free to download for both iOS and Android and works entirely offline making it ideal for use in areas of the UK with an unreliable data connection, like beaches, national parks and campsites.

what3words can also be used via the online map at what3words.com.

The app is available in over 45 languages, including Welsh, and can be used anywhere in the world.

Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and Chief Executive of what3words, said: “Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where help is needed can be very distressing for the caller, and a really difficult situation for emergency services.

“Today people nearly always have their phones on them.

“Ahead of a busy summer, with Brits holidaying at home, we need to use the tools at our disposal to improve public services, support emergency control centres and potentially save lives.”

The Welsh Ambulance Service is supporting the what3words #KnowExactlyWhere campaign (26 July-01 August) which calls on the public to download the app.

* Visit www.knowexactlywhere.com for more information.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Flats will offer respite and short breaks to unpaid carers

Two flats have been renovated by Denbighshire County Council to offer respite and short breaks to unpaid carers.

The properties are in Corwen and Ruthin and form part of the council’s Corporate Plan priority to support unpaid carers.

Both properties feature modern facilities and will allow carers and/or those they care for to have a break. 

Both flats have easy access and adaptations to make them disabled friendly and have sleep in facilities if overnight support is needed. 

This development builds on the successful pilot in Ruthin, where unpaid carers have been able to benefit from breaks within the Llys Awelon Extra Care Scheme in partnership with North East Wales Carers Information Service (NEWCIS).

Unpaid carers in the county can access a wealth of support from local and national organisations including short breaks, a sitting service and direct payments which allows them to balance a life alongside caring.

They are able to undertake a needs assessment carried out by NEWCIS, commissioned by Denbighshire County Council, to find out what support is available.

This assessment allows the unpaid carer to explain the impact caring has on them and their life and to explore a range of support options.

Cllr Bobby Feeley, Denbighshire’s Lead Member for Well-being and Independence, said: “Unpaid carers play a pivotal role in our society and the Council values their contribution. We have renovated these two properties to offer the chance for respite and short breaks.

“It offers the opportunity to take time out and I would encourage all unpaid carers in the county to contact the Council for a carer’s assessment so they can see what support is available to them.”

As part of its Corporate Plan, the council has committed to supporting unpaid carers by improving the services that exist and ensuring young, young adult, parent and adult carers are aware of the support available.

Cllr Ann Davies, the Council’s Carers Champion, said: “I welcome the offer of these two properties in Denbighshire to give unpaid carers respite and short breaks.

“There is a huge burden of responsibility on their shoulders and this offer of support will help provide them with additional respite.”

* You can find out more by contacting the Council’s Single Point of Access on 0300 4561000 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm or email spoa@denbighshire.gov.uk

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Police boss puts out call for old IT kit

* North Wales Police Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin visits Wales Recycle I.T at Llangefni to meet Gareth Roberts, Rebekah Lowther and Deborah Mitchell. Picture Mandy Jones

A police boss is appealing to companies and public bodies in North Wales to donate their redundant IT kit to a social enterprise so it can be recycled and given to people who need it.

The plea came from the region’s police and crime commissioner, Andy Dunbobbin, during a visit to North Wales Recycle IT who have already handed out £35,000-worth of desktops, laptops, tablets and accessories.

After being repaired or refurbished, the equipment has been given to nursery groups, school pupils, charities and elderly people in care homes who are all on the wrong side of a “digital divide”.

Although it’s free of charge, each piece of equipment that’s recycled for the benefit of the community comes with a 12-month guarantee.

The launch of the service was particularly timely because the world had been knocked sideways by the Covid-19 pandemic and education had shifted online, and digital communication became increasingly important

Among the organisations that have stepped up to the plate are North Wales Police who have donated 300 bits of kit, mainly desk tops and laptops.

North Wales Recycle IT was founded by Rebekah and Robin Lowther who also run a successful commercial information technology company, C1phertech, in Llangefni, which was set up 10 years ago.

The social enterprise has provided equipment to organisations across North Wales and needs more businesses and public sector bodies to help them out so they can keep up with the demand.

Operations director Rebekah said: “Through C1phertech, we deal with a lot of waste treatment facilities in England and we realised there was nothing here in Wales for recycling redundant IT equipment.

“Companies were coming in from England, taking the equipment out and charging for the service.

“We wanted to be able to keep that equipment here in Wales, refurbish it and then give it back out to people within the community.

“We established the social enterprise in 2019, fully funded by our commercial company, set it all up and then we got all our quality certifications and accreditations on the 9th of March 2020 and then the world went mad.

“We shut down for that first lockdown.  We realised then when we got back in January this year we were shocked to find just one school down the road said they had 180 pupils with no device in the house. 

“It’s shocking that they would have one phone between them or one laptop which is fine in normal times if you’re just doing your homework.

“The devices donated have been life-changing for the individuals and families within the communities of North Wales.

“Children have continued their education, individuals were able to communicate with friends and family online and get essential items delivered to their door.

“Schools have now reopened but we still need help to bridge the digital divide in North Wales and help those pupils, families and individuals in need.

“We can reduce social isolation and open doors for them to communicate, educate and become connected with the outside world.”

Tech savvy Mr Dunbobbin, who has a background in IT, was “blown away by the fantastic work” being done by Rebekah and the team.

He said: “I would urge any companies or public sector organisations who are upgrading their technology to donate their redundant desktops, laptops and tablets to North Wales Recycle IT so they can be refurbished quickly and provided to those in need.

“It’s so good that North Wales Police donating equipment that is no longer needed by us and is bringing new use and that really falls in line with the green agenda in terms of recycling.

“What they are doing here is the epitome of social value, helping people across the whole age spectrum – right through from nursery school tots to elderly people in care homes, and many others in between.

“The digital divide was happening anyway, but the pandemic has accelerated the process greatly and North Wales Recycle IT are doing a brilliant job in helping to bridge that gap.

“I know they are also looking for more volunteers and if anybody wants to get involved, I’d certainly encourage them to speak to the people here.”

The hook up with North Wales Police was championed by Gareth Wynne Roberts, the force’s Deputy ICT Infrastructure Manager.

He said: “This is the ideal partnership for us because we have IT equipment that we no longer need for us as an organisation. 

“We wanted a way to remove that equipment from our premises, but we wanted to try to give something back to the community and this enterprise is perfect for us. It allows us to give back to those who need it the most. 

“As well as being a good thing to do, it also makes my life easier.  Having a company on your doorstep to be able to come to pick up kit at any time – and not charging for it - is important and I think this relationship is definitely beneficial for both sides.

“Clearly, we have done our part in terms of security to ensure our information was clear from those machines and ensured that all security measures were in place as we didn’t want to risk not only ourselves but also North Wales Recycle IT.

“I’ve worked for North Wales Police for 18 years and this is one of my proudest moments. “

It was a sentiment echoed by Deborah Mitchell, one of the social enterprise’s non-executive directors.

She added: “It’s a free service for the organisations around us and what better way to contribute to the local economy than being able to repurpose redundant IT equipment and then give it back to those that are in need in the local community.”

Friday, July 30, 2021

Fully vaccinated adults no longer need to self-isolate

All adults who have been fully-vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone with coronavirus from 7 August, the First Minister has confirmed.

The changes to the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect (TTP) service for fully-vaccinated adults will come into effect from 7 August – the same day as Wales is expected to move to alert level zero, if the public health situation allows.

Children and young people under 18 will also be exempt from the need to self-isolate if they are also identified as close contacts of a positive case.

But everyone who tests positive for coronavirus or has symptoms must continue to isolate for 10 days, whether they have been vaccinated or not.

The TTP service will use the Welsh Immunisation Service to identify adults who are fully-vaccinated and who will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are identified as close contacts.

From 7 August, instead of instructing fully-vaccinated adults to isolate, contact tracers and advisers will provide them with advice and guidance about how to protect themselves and stay safe.

The TTP service will provide a “warn and inform” service for all fully-vaccinated adults and under-18s, who are identified as close contacts.

Some extra safeguards will be put in place for those working with vulnerable people, particularly health and social care staff, including a risk assessment for staff working in health and care and daily lateral flow tests. Members of the public will be strongly advised not to visit hospitals and care homes for 10 days.

Everyone identified as a contact of a positive case will continue to be advised to have a PCR test on day two and day eight, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

The changes will help ease the pressure on vital services caused by the recent rapid rise in Covid cases, driven by the delta variant over the last two months.

Cases have risen by 800% since the end of May, when they were at very low levels. Over the last week case rates have started to fall in all parts of Wales.

Almost 80% of adults in Wales have been fully vaccinated – the best rates in the UK and some of the best in the world.


UK Government Minister visits Llangollen Railway

* Simon Baynes and Amanda Milling speak to 

volunteers at the station.

Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes welcomed the Conservative Party Chairman and UK Government Minister, Amanda Milling, on a socially distanced visit to Llangollen Railway following its reopening earlier this month.

Mrs Milling’s visit came as part of her Levelling Up Tour during which she is visiting areas which are part of the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda to provide jobs and opportunities across the whole of the UK. 

Llangollen Railway is part of an area bid for Levelling Up funding to help create opportunity and economic prosperity in Clwyd South.

Mr Baynes and Mrs Milling met with volunteers on the platform and took a train from Llangollen to Berwyn Station and back again on which the driver was John Joyce and the guard was Matt Carty.

They also met with Paul Reynolds (Operations Manager), Bob Creasey (Secretary to the Board), Phil Freeth (Finance Director), Mike Williams, Tom Taylor (Advisor to the Board). 

Overall, there are 600 active volunteers helping the Llangollen Railway including a fast-growing youth group. 

Mrs Milling said: “It was brilliant to visit Llangollen Railway as part of my Levelling Up tour of the United Kingdom.

“It was great to hear about the work that the volunteers do for the railway and the tourists that enjoy visiting. 

“Levelling up our country is a key mission of this Conservative government to help improve communities across the country. 

“I wish Simon and the team at Llangollen the best of luck with their area levelling up bid which I know would help create opportunity and economic prosperity in the area.” 

Simon Baynes said: It was a great pleasure to welcome Amanda Milling MP to Llangollen and to showcase the amazing work of our volunteers in bringing the railway back into action after so many months. 

"It was a pleasure to meet again with everyone involved on the platform and to make a special journey between Llangollen and Berwyn and back with the Conservative Party Chairman.

“It was also a very valuable opportunity for me to stress the benefits of UK Government investment for our communities in Clwyd South which would benefit massively following the Covid-19 pandemic and would help unlock the potential of our young people by bringing in new jobs and opportunities. 

"I will continue to make the case for our area to receive Levelling Up funding, and I look forward to working with UK Government Ministers to advance our case over the coming months.”

Audi's luxury hybrid has some serious tech





Audi A8 plug-in hybrid drive by Steve Rogers

It is packed with the sort of wizard technology you would expect to find in a jet fighter with a computer system to match,  and thanks to an electric motor Audi's luxury A8 is good to go until 2035.

Hybrid cars have been given a five year lease of life after new petrol and diesel engined cars are confined to history in 2030.... unless the Government of the day has to do an embarrassing U-turn because we are not ready to switch to electric motoring.

Let's not worry about that, back to the here and now the German giant's flagship has been given a new lease of life thanks to electric power that makes it cleaner, quieter and quicker.

Helping out the three litre V6 petrol is an electric motor that racks up around 110bhp bringing the tally to a whopping 443bhp. But the key number is 500 and that is the Newton metres of torque blasting out when the accelerator is plunged although to get this cruise missile performance switch to sport mode because in standard drive the eight speed tiptronic gearbox is a tad slow to respond.

Is this a car for tearing away from the traffic lights? Of course not, the A8 will spend most of its time cruising cities and motorways with nothing more than the whisper of wind to disturb the passengers who will more than likely be chauffeured.

This is the sort of car seen depositing A listers at movie premiers, one down from a Rolls-Royce or Bentley at less than half the price. Sumptuous leather interior, thick pile carpets, gadgets galore, and the smoothest of rides thanks to air suspension on both axles. This car will even glide over a speed bump.

The silent running comes into play with the battery powered electric motor which is good for about 29 miles and can be driven at up to 84mph, but the hybrid really comes into its own in towns and cities where it is keeping the air clean and getting the most miles out of the batteries.

Audi has been pushing the boundaries on technology since A8 was introduced in 2003 and this fourth generation is another tour de force. The driver's digital cockpit has become a regular feature, interchangeable with fantastic high definition Google mapping. The main change has come in the centre console, a bone of contention with many, and I am at the front of the queue.

The rotary controller, and efficient and safe way of selecting the various functions, has been replaced by touch screens which are not difficulty to master but still drawer eyes away from the road.

I tried voice control but my Welsh accent was too much for the young lady who failed to pick up a post code or tune me into Radio 2 or 5 Live. Somehow my instruction brought up Radio Wales.

What I did like was the delicate click and vibration of the touch sensitive switches, the selection of colours for the mood lighting and the powered doors which open and close at the slightest touch on the handles.

The serious technology is centred around the car's safety features which virtually allow the car to drive itself by keeping it within its lane and a set distance to the vehicle in front, braking and accelerating according to the speed selected.

Audi has been in a decade's long battle for supremacy with Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series and, frankly, all three are brilliant cars, but for me the Audi just has the edge on interior finish. And then I was brought down to earth with a bump. Having spent many miles on roughish coastal roads an annoying creek developed in the trim around the sunroof. Shock, gasp. Even the mighty can falter.

It never ceases to amaze me that the big three charge a heap of money for their luxury cars but can still find room for extras. My test car was £91k but still had six grands worth of extras but that is small change if you can afford that for a car.

Fast facts

A8 60 TFSI e quattro

£91,550

3-litre petrol + electric motor 443bhp

0-62mph 4.9secs; 155mph

128.4mpg with electric assistance

36mpg petrol only

52g/km. VED £25

Insurance group 29

Boot: 390 litres