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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Corwen railway extension officially opened

* Steam locomotive 3802 prepares to drive through a
symbolic banner stretched across the newly-extended track.

SCORES of invited guests braved a wintry St David’s Day to attend the official opening of the newly extended railway line between Llangollen and Corwen this afternoon (Sunday).

The special event, staged in a field just outside Corwen, marked the completion of the ambitious five-year scheme to run trains a further 2.5 miles west of the line’s previous terminus at Carrog.
It also came as the fulfilment of a dream going right back to 1975 when a team of dedicated railway enthusiasts began bringing part of the Dee Valley route back to life as a heritage railway after it was axed under the Beeching service cuts of the early 1960s.  

* Guests head towards the marquee for the ceremony.
As a regular passenger service now begins between Llangollen and Corwen for the first time in 50 years, it was revealed that plans are already taking shape for phase two of the plan to run trains from the new terminus near the car park in Corwen a further 500 yards right into the heart of the town and replace a temporary station and platform which has been built with permanent facilities.

And Llangollen county councillor Stuart Davies, who has given his full backing to the extension project, said that although he estimated this development would cost in the region of half a million pounds, he would be doing all he could to see the trust which operates the railway is able to obtain secure financial assistance with the scheme.

A large party of invited guests, including local politicians and civic leaders, boarded a train hauled by a steam engine for the journey from Llangollen to the new temporary station designated Dwyrain Corwen East.
The opening ceremony began with the symbolic driving of the locomotive through a banner stretched across the track and continued with a rendition of the Welsh national anthem by the Glyndwr Male Voice Choir (pictured left) and Llangollen Silver Band.

As driving rain turned to sleet and then snow, railway vice-presidents Gordon Heddon and Bill Shakespeare unveiled a bilingual plaque bearing the name of the new station.
Railway chairman Peter Lund cut a ribbon to declare the new station officially open and members of the Corwen Community handed out complimentary daffodils to guests as they gathered in a marquee to hear further selections from the band and the choir.

Railway spokesman George Jones said: “With the opening of the extension to Corwen East the intention of all members of the railway is to look towards the development of the final section of the extension.
* Llangollen Silver Band plays at the ceremony.
“We of course need financial assistance to enable all this happen but, for what is a relatively modest outlay, the area will gain so much.
“If you consider the footbridge erected at Chirk Station, this cost over a million pounds.

“For somewhat less than that Corwen will receive a permanent platform, signal box, all the track, signalling and much more, plus access to the town’s main car park via a subway from the platform.”

Llangollen county councillor Stuart Davies, who was amongst guests at the ceremony, said: “The band of dedicated volunteers who run the railway have done a fantastic job over the past 40 years is driving the line forward as far as Corwen, overcoming every obstacle in their way.
“The second phase of the extension project, which will bring many benefits to both Llangollen and Corwen, must definitely now go ahead.

“I personally estimate that it will take about £500,000 to complete this and I am determined to see the railway trust is given every assistance in securing the necessary finance to complement its own fundraising efforts.”
 ... to all llanblogger readers ...

UB40 legend bound for eisteddfod


* Ali Campbell.

The music legend who formed one of the world’s top reggae bands will provide a high energy climax to a top festival, it's been revealed.

Ali Campbell, the voice of UB40 who sold 70 million records, has been snapped up by Llangollen International Musical Festival for their closing concert on Sunday, July 12.

He'll be reunited on the eisteddfod stage with two other founding members of UB40 - percussionist, trumpet player and vocalist Astro and keyboard player Mickey.

The concert is being sponsored by the award-winning Village Bakery, the fastest growing manufacturer in Wales.

Managing Director Robin Jones said: "As a locally based family firm, we are proud to have supported the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod for a number of years.

"UB40 played an important role in the history of world music so it's appropriate that Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey are bringing the curtain down on this year's International Eisteddfod. It's going to be a great night."
The stellar line-up this year also includes Oscar-winning songwriter Burt Bacharach who'll open the festival on Monday, July 6, and classical heart-throb Alfie Boe who'll be performing songs from musical theatre and movies on the Thursday night, July 9.
The Eisteddfod's Musical Director, Eilir Owen Griffiths, said: "The concert with Ali Campbell, the legendary voice of UB40, with Astro and Mickey is going to be an absolutely fantastic night and I'm sure the pavilion will be bouncing.
"It will be a fitting climax to a really exciting week of really world class entertainment - I can't wait."
Campbell, who, along with Mickey, left the original UB40 in 2008, is enjoying playing to packed audiences around the world and is looking forward to his first visit to Llangollen.

But Campbell admits things just weren’t the same until Astro walked away from the remaining UB40 band members in 2013 and teamed back up with Mickey and himself.

He said: "We are back on our mission taking reggae music to the world.

“Llangollen, I can promise, won’t have ever seen a concert like the one we intend to put on. I know Status Quo were there last year, well I can promise you this, we’ll smash them."

Father-of-eight Campbell, now 56, was born and raised in Birmingham and says his love of reggae comes from the fact most of his early mates were of West Indian descent who listened to reggae most of the time.

He added: “Reggae just gives you something different, a freedom I suppose. It’s probably the youngest genre around but I listen to music from all around the world and the reggae influence is massive. It’s so influential.

“I was, in 1978, one of the founding members of UB40, along with Astro and Mickey. And I was the principle songwriter. We sold more than 70 million records worldwide and toured around the world for more than 30 years.

“We decided on the name UB40 as a friend of mine, Andy Nash, pointed out we were all on the dole at the time and suggested we name ourselves after the government’s Unemployment Benefit Form 40, or UB40 as it was known.

“It was probably a better choice for a band name than the one we had already sort of decided on, which was Geoff Cancer and the Nicorettes!

"I’ve been flying the flag for reggae ever since. We are in the middle of world tour which is going brilliantly. The simple truth is we are the hottest reggae band around. If you want real reggae and the real UB40 then it has to be us.

“In the last year we have performed in Australia and New Zealand, where I was one of the three judges on New Zealand’s Got talent, and Papua New Guinea.

"We are selling out wherever we go, people want to hear that true UB40 reggae sound and that’s what we are giving them.

“I just want to put on the best show possible and that’s what I promise UB40 fans who come to see our shows. Llangollen won’t have seen anything like it, it’s that simple.”

The concert will round off another packed week which will feature Children’s Day and the Parade of Nations on the Tuesday, led by Eisteddfod President Terry Waite before the evening Heart of Llangollen concert featuring a galaxy of international talent.

Highlights of Wednesday will include the debut of the International Young Musician of the Year and the Children’s Choir of the World while Thursday’s competitions will see another first, the International Voice of Musical Theatre Trophy.

Friday’s Open Category for choirs will showcase styles like gospel, barbershop, jazz, pop and glee styles and will also see the International Voice of the Future decided with the prize including the chance to sing at one of the evening concerts the future.

The Blue Riband event, the Choir of the World for the Pavarotti Trophy, is decided on Saturday night as well as the Lucile Armstrong Dance Final and Sunday sees the Eisteddfod let its hair down for Llanfest before the climactic final concert with Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey.

* To book tickets and for more details on the 2015 festival, go to the website at

Friday, February 27, 2015

Councillor welcomes "decline" in illegal off-roading

LLANGOLLEN county councillor Stuart Davies says he is pleased to see that electronic monitoring shows illegal off-roading in the hills above the town is “declining”.

Cllr Davies based his comments on a report from a county council officer which gives an update on data taken from a vehicle logger placed on the Allt y Badi, which has been at the centre of many complaints about unlawful off-roader use.   
The report says: “The Allt y Badi logger show signs of a continuing reduction of use by recreational vehicles on this popular road over the autumn and early winter especially with motorcycles.

“Whilst this may be a reflection on the wetter or icier weather conditions, as we do not yet have a full year’s data, we do not yet know if this reduction is unusual or typical.
“However, at each reading it is apparent that the combined average numbers of users declines each time it is calculated and in addition the number of days on which no vehicles at all using the route is increasing as a percentage of measured days.

“We are now aware that average weekly use is now 40 vehicles as week compared to nearly 60 during last spring, for 31% of the days so far logged there were no vehicles on the road that day.

“We will shortly have completed a year of monitoring and we will continue to monitor the levels of traffic to help determine the most appropriate management for the route.”
The report adds: “Two police action days this winter have seen a number of notices being issued, punative fines issued and bikes impounded.

“The reduction in use illustrates that the exercise is having a successful impact by reducing these riders confidence that they can break the law and evade being caught with the penalties of being caught are significant.
“Other evidence from the patterns of vehicle activity the loggers reveal means the police have better information on when it is most likely they can intercept and stop riders avoiding the need for unproductive operations when these riders will not likely be present.”

Cllr Davies said: “I am pleased to see that illegal off-road riding use is declining.
“This comes after a joint meeting of stakeholders and authorities where the issues identified by the community were brought to the table by elected representatives.

“Issues were identified and outcomes agreed by the relevant authorities.”
He added: “I would like to thank the officers involved as well as North Wales Police for their swift reaction and firm dealings with people caught riding and driving illegally.
“County officers along with their colleagues are continuing to make sure that illegal use of green roads etc is punished.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Demolition proceeds on former D&C factory

Pictures taken this afternoon (Thursday) by llanblogger show how demolition work is proceeding on the former Dobson & Crowther factory on the A5.

The site is earmarked for the construction of a new Sainsbury's supermarket but the store chain is yet to reveal how the scheme is affected by its current review of new store openings.

Traffic survey appeal deadline speeds closer

* Busy Castle Street in Llangollen.

The clock is ticking on a public appeal for cash to help pay for a survey into traffic conditions in the centre of Llangollen.

The local Cittaslow group is backing a plan to take on traffic management specialists Hamilton Baillie Associates to carry out a study into how best to the handle conflicting traffic needs in the town – parkers, shopkeepers and pedestrians.

While a full blown survey by the firm which created a ground-breaking scheme for Poynton in Cheshire would be £10,000, Cittaslow has opted for a brief one-day appraisal costing just £1,000.

Town councillor Phil Thane is fronting a public appeal to raise the cash and he revealed that with just five days left to the deadline, there’s still £350 to be raised.

He said: “We are not doing a public opinion survey that carries no weight, we're getting a professional opinion.

“We have been backed by AXA Insurance' Roadsafe scheme which has pledged £250.

“One of our Castle Street shopkeepers has pledged £50, and another £20, so how about a few quid from the others?

“With just a few days left to the Tuesday, March 3 deadline to find the extra £350 we really need support.”

He added: “Everyone grumbles about Castle Street.

“Drivers in a hurry to get through would like all parking banned, pedestrians would like safe crossings, shopkeepers need to load and unload and want more parking for their customers, tourists want a pleasant place to stroll.

“At the moment we have the worst of all possible solutions, some legal parking, some illegal parking, double yellows down one side giving motorists the illusion of a clear road - until they meet a large vehicle coming the other way, and pedestrians running the gauntlet.

“The only good thing is that it's so chaotic the traffic is usually slow and there haven't been any serious accidents.

“We think it could be better, but it needs a new vision not just the county council putting down some more paint and harrassing shopkeepers.

“Poynton's problems were much worse than ours in Llangollen, and they've been fixed.

“The town council budget is tiny, and tight, so we're asking the community to get behind this.”
To find out more, go to:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Susan Elan Jones repeats call for MPs' second jobs ban

Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones has repeated her call her call for MPs to be banned from having second jobs.
Ms Jones, who spent 15 years working for charities before she became an MP, said: "I spoke out on this subject last October in the House of Commons, when I was actually boo-ed by some Conservative MPs from the other side of the Chamber.

"These are the very same people that won't legislate to stop abuses of zero hours contracts, a practice that is making a life a misery for so many families in our area. 

"I am glad that the Labour Party is leading a proper debate on the issue today and that there will be a vote too."

Today's Labour motion states: “That this House believes that, as part of a wider regulatory framework for second jobs, from the start of the next Parliament no hon. Members should be permitted to hold paid directorships or consultancies.”