Welsh Green Dragon


City Car Club Launches in Cardiff by deanjpoolman

There’s a new, greener way to travel in Cardiff and it still involves the car. It’s called the City Car Club.

Based in Leeds, the City Car Club lets you hire a car by the hour in 14 cities across the UK and the scheme arrived in Wales last month.

Cardiff’s City Car Club was launched in partnership with the council and it was officially unveiled on Tuesday, December 7th by the Leader of the Council, Cllr Rodney Berman and Executive Member for Traffic and Transport, Cllr Delme Bowen.

The scheme is being funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, as part of a project to make Cardiff a “sustainable travel city”.

However, it was also public demand, which attracted the City Car Club to Cardiff, as Richard Drew who manages the scheme here explains:

[Audio http://audioboo.fm/boos/239458-richard-from-city-car-club-cardiff-explains-why-they-chose-to-launch-in-cardiff.mp3%5D

City Car Club - Cardif Launch

Launch of the City Car Club in Cardiff with Cllr Rodney Berman and Cllr Delme Bowen (Courtesy of City Car Club)

It’s hoped the scheme will reduce pollution and congestion in the city, because research has shown car clubs reduce the number of cars on the road.

The independent charity, Carplus believes “one car club car replaces around 24.5 private cars”, which means the initial delivery of City Car Club vehicles in the city could remove 245 cars from the roads of Cardiff.

Reducing the number of cars on the road isn’t the only environmental benefit of a car club scheme, Carplus also state that car club cars are more environmentally friendly and produce less carbon dioxide than the cars they replace.

At the moment, there are 10 low-emission Ford Fiestas available to hire across the city, with cars located in the City Centre, Cathays, Riverside, Pontcanna and Cardiff Bay. However, two more locations are due to open soon:

City Car Club Fiesta – King Edward VII Avenue

City Car Club Fiesta – King Edward VII Avenue

Every car available through the scheme is fully maintained and comprehensively insured by the City Car Club and each location has a space permanently reserved for the vehicle, so users should not have a problem parking at the end of their hire period.

But are these perks enough to make people sell their cars and join the scheme?

Heather, aged 49 from Cardiff: “I’m not a particularly confident driver, so I’m only happy driving my car. I’m used to driving it.”

Daniel, aged 29 from Newport: “I don’t come into Cardiff that often, so it’s unlikely I’d use one here, but I might if they were in Newport”

Mike, aged 46 from Cardiff: “I would have to look into it a bit more, find out about the cost and how the insurance works, things like that, but I’ll definitely look into it”

Only people who have paid a membership fee of £50 for the scheme and have received a smart membership card can gain access to the cars, as Richard Drew told Welsh Green Dragon:

[Audio http://audioboo.fm/boos/239476-richard-from-city-car-club-cardiff-explains-how-the-scheme-works.mp3%5D

The hourly cost of using a car club scheme can even be cheaper than owning a car, which means the benefits are not purely environmental, they are also economical.

Research conducted by the RAC last year suggests that car clubs are more financially beneficial for those who drive less than 8000 miles per year, while Carplus say those who drive less than 6000 miles a year can save £3500 a year by using a car club.

However, the scheme isn’t available to everyone in Cardiff with a driving licence:

  • Under 19 years olds cannot join the club.
  • Drivers who have held their driving license for less than 12 months are not permitted.
  • Members aged 19 or 20 years old have to pay £10 per month (in addition to the £50 annual membership fee) to cover higher insurance premiums.
  • Drivers with more than six points on their license may not be eligible (This is checked during the application process)

The City Car Club isn’t the first pay-as-you-go travel scheme to launch in Cardiff. Back in September 2009, OYBike launched in Cardiff allowing people to hire one of 70 pedal bikes from 10 locations around the city.

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Welsh Assembly gets tough on councils to become Zero Waste by Chris Halpin

Measures to improve how Wales deals with its waste have been proposed to the Welsh Assembly Government.

Environment Minister Jane Davidson wants Wales to adopt more sustainable waste management practices.

She hopes Wales will become a high recycling country by 2025 with aims to reach a Zero Waste country by 2050.

There’ll be targets for local authorities to recycle and compost, with financial penalties if these targets are not met. Certain materials will also be banned from going to landfill, like biodegradable food waste which could be used as biomass fuel. The announcement made by the Assembly also includes plans to start charging for plastic carrier bags in all shops from 2011.

What is ‘Zero Waste’?

The concept of ‘Zero Waste’ is to try and recover as much energy from our rubbish as possible, and options on how to do this are being researched by a group of local authorities.

Prosiect Gwyrdd is a partnership between, Caerphilly Borough County Council, The County Council of the City and County of Cardiff, Monmouthshire County Council, Newport Council and Vale of Glamorgan Council.

They are looking into the different ways of turning waste into energy, through modern incinerators (also known as combined heat and power), or anaerobic digestion (where the methane gas produced when waste decomposes is captured to be used as fuel).

Recycling as it stands

We are doing quite well when it comes to recycling in South East Wales. For the last quarter the figures are as follows.

Caerphilly: 39.32%
Cardiff: 38.5%
Monmouthshire: 41.67%
Newport: 39%
Vale of Glamorgan: 41.81%

On average there’s been a 3% rise each year in the amounts recycled since 2001. Its admirable that the Welsh Assembly are committed to reducing the amount we send to landfill and that schemes like Prosiect Gwyrdd are looking into ways to convert our rubbish into energy.

However – will ruling with an iron fist work (dishing out fines to councils left right and centre) or will it just hinder any further progress? Surely working to financial incentives and encouraging better waste management is better than penalising councils for not being up to scratch.

Call me a cynic but if councils are fined, then surely it’ll be us lot who suffer in the long run when we have to cough up more council tax.



Prime Minister petitioned to help Cardiff buses by tanyamercer

 

A petition from Save Cardiff Central is going to ten Downing Street asking Gordon Brown to prevent Cardiff Council reducing the city’s bus services. 
Campaigners, including the city’s Green party, say the council’s development of Cardiff Central is making it more difficult for people to use public transport in the capital and reducing the city’s main transport hub.
Signatories are calling on the Prime Minister to prevent other local authorities across England and Wales from doing the same. 

Matt Townsend, Green party candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth, started the petition.  He said: “On a national level the government has been talking about integrated public transport, but if on a local level individual councils are able to take away those facilities or reduce the amount they are used, then that seems inconsistent. And once they’ve been reduced in size I’m worried they’ll never go back to the way they were before.” 

Councillor Delme Bowen, Travel and Traffic Executive for Cardiff City Council, said: “The petition fails to see the benefits the changes will bring. We are not reducing the integrated transport hub but modernising it. We will have two hubs – one in St Mary’s street and one at Cardiff Central.”
  

Sustainable Travel City
The changes were introduced as part of Cardiff Council’s joint Sustainable Travel City initiative with the Welsh Assembly Government. The council hopes the changes will reduce congestion in the city centre and encourage more people to use public transport. 

The ‘bus box’ 

Cardiff bus box

The new bus routes, which were introduced in October last year, mean all the buses now travel in an anti clockwise direction around the city.
Campaigners say this means people have further to walk to get to bus stops and adds considerable time onto people’s travel signs. 

Cardiff Central Station
In an attempt to reduce congestion around the bus station, more bus stops have been introduced along St Mary’s Street. Consequently only half the buses now stop at Cardiff Central Station.
Councillor Bowen says this will help keep traffic flowing around the city centre.
But Matt Townsend said: “Nearly all buses used to stop at Cardiff Central, but now many stop away from the station. This means people wanting to make connections with local and national trains and buses have to walk further. This means people will be less inclined to use the buses and those with mobility problems will be particularly affected. If the council wants people to use public tranport they need to make it easier for them, not more difficult.”  

Free B bus
Matt Townsend also has concerns about the new Free B bus, which is designed to link up bus stops around the city.
“Because the free bus only runs til about 8pm, it means people have to wait at other bus stops late enough. Although Cardiff Central Station isn’t the safest place, it is busy and people feel safer waiting there.”
There are also complaints from Cardiff residents that people haven’t been told about the free service. Consequently, very few people are using the service.
Councillor Bowen says a new publicty campaign has now started to advertise the new service. There will be a leaflet drop to people’s homes and posters put up around city bus stops.  

Future Plans
Save Cardiff Cental campaigners are concerned that the council has not been clear about its longer term plans for Cardiff Central Station and the city’s bus system.
Coucillor Bowen says the plans could take another five years to materialise. He said: “We’re in discussions about a new bus station and new sustainable transport systems such as a tram that can run on the road or on tracks.
“I know we’re going through a transition period now, but we will end up with a much better transport system, with less congestion. Consequently, people will be able to move around the city much more easily.”



£6 Million scheme to turn M4 into ‘Hydrogen highway’ announced by Chris Halpin

Ambitious new plans to turn the M4 in South Wales into a testing ground for vehicles powered by renewable fuels have been announced by Welsh Secretary of State Peter Hain and Environment Minister Jane Davidson today.

Dubbed the ‘Hydrogen highway’ futuristic filling stations will be installed along the motorway which can fuel electric and hydrogen cars, linking into a larger network across the South west and the Midlands.

A welcome boost to Wales’ Motor Industry

With yesterday’s news that Bosch would definitely close its Miskin plant, these new plans could give a welcome boost to Wales’ struggling motor industry. Building on years of research by the University of Glamorgan’s Renewable Hydrogen Research Centre, the Welsh Assembly Government hope developing the infrastructure will attract international manufacturing companies back to Wales.

£6.6 million pounds of funding has been awarded to the University’s research team to take the first steps into developing the hydrogen fuel technology and how the filling stations can be rolled out up and down the motorway. Some of the funding for the three year research project comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Assembly Government as part of the activities of the Low Carbon Research Institute. Here’s Welsh Secretary Peter Hain’s comments on the scheme.

Reaching a Low Carbon Economy

The plan will also help to meet Wales’ targets to move towards a low carbon economy and to tackle climate change. With fossil fuels running out, Environment Minister Jane Davidson says Wales should be at the forefront of developing alternatives to petrol fuelled cars. She believes hydrogen and electric power vehicles are the way forward and that Wales can be at the forefront of this technology. She also said that whilst carbon emissions from household energy were reducing, Transport emissions were still rising.

Listen to the full interview here.

The technology’s ready but the forecourts are not

Hydrogen fuel is extremely clean emitting only water when used as fuel. So far fuel cell technology has proved expensive, but the new funding will help research how to make the fuel more efficient. The next step is the expansion of the next generation of fuel filling stations. A number of car companies have already designed hydrogen powered cars but fuel station forecourts are not ready for them. Here’s the Honda clarity as reviewed by James May on the BBC’s Top Gear.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It’s hoped that by 2015 hydrogen powered vehicles will become a common sight on our motorways as they’ll be much cheaper to buy and you’ll be able to refuel them. With todays announcement we may be a step closer but there’s still a long wait until such vehicles are likely to be hitting roads near you.



Crackdown against fly-tipping in South Wales by Chris Halpin

Fly-Tipping Action Wales Campaign – Radio Feature

You know what they say, where there’s muck there’s money. However in this case its leaving local authorities in South Wales a deficit to the tune of three million pounds per year, and in the end we’re the one’s who pay through higher council tax bills. Tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish is left at roadsides and wasteland each year, and now there is a new drive to tackle the problem.

The Environment Agency are once more trying to convince businesses and families that fly-tipping is not on, with partnership agencies like Keep Cardiff Tidy and Cardiff City Councils Prosiect Gwyrdd (Project Green) on board.

Notorious areas for fly-tipping are the lanes which run between Caerphilly and St Mellon’s where you can find dozens of dumping grounds. The usual suspects include old furniture, settees and large white goods like fridges and washing machines, but alarmingly also a lot of trade and industrial waste like building materials and toxic asbestos. People may think places like this are out of sight so out of mind, but it causes considerable disruption as many sites block farmer’s gates and of course have a devastating impact on the environment.

Duty of care

The new campaign which is backed by the Welsh Assembly Government is designed to remind homeowners and businesses that it’s their responsibility that waste gets disposed of properly. If you’re using a tradesperson like a builder or plumber you must check that they’re registered with the Environment Agency as a waste carrier.

This latest crackdown has been timed for January as it’s the worst month for illegal dumping when people have their annual new year clear out. Surprisingly almost two-thirds of waste found is actually normal household waste in black bin bags which could be left out for the dustbin man.

Hi-tech police crackdown

As technological advancement races on, South Wales Police are developing cunning ways in which to catch illegal fly-tippers out. Forensic techniques like SmartWater and aerial surveillance are being employed to chart illegal dumping sites and track down the culprits.

With the risk of landing a fine of up to £50,000 or even a prison sentence is it really worth the bother?  The scale of the problem is only demonstrated by the fact that out of 55,000 cases between 2008-1009 only 72 arrests and prosecutions were made. Some people argue that the council need to make it easier for people to get rid of waste, especially large electrical items. With the opening of smaller local tips, or Civic Amenity sites like Waungron Road in Fairwater, legimate ways to chuck away waste are being made more accessible – the only stipulation is you can only take waste that will fit in your car; larger vehicles must go to the Recycling site at Lamby Way. Alternatively you can ring Connect 2 Cardiff, Cardiff City Councils helpline and they will arrange collection of larger white goods free of charge. For more information visit the Fly-Tipping Action Wales or Cardiff City Council website.

The root of the problem?

From the people I spoke to it seems part of the problem comes down to disposal cost and people tightening their belts because of the recession. This is especially the case for small tradesmen and businesses disposing of composite or dangerous materials like plasterboard or asbestos. When it comes to waste they often operate at a loss and if they do jump through the right hoops it’s seen by many as a lengthy bureaucratic nightmare.  One builder I spoke to challenged me to try and dispose of some asbestos myself, just to see how hard it really is.

This is no justification for flagrant littering, but unfortunately the age-old dilemma rings true once again; the environment is not everyone’s main priority – time and money are more important. Despite the threat of a hefty fine or time behind bars, the blight that fly-tipping causes looks set to stay. One must hope this new campaign attempts to get to the root of why people lack a conscience when it comes to driving out to the middle of nowhere under the cover of darkness and using the countryside as a dumping ground.