Armed Forces Day which took place on Saturday, is usually celebrated with services and marches across Monmouthshire. This year the celebrations were of a virtual nature but were none the less heartfelt for that. The county of Monmouthshire boasts a long military history, playing host to the oldest regiment in the British Army reserves – the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers. Towards the end of the 1980s I was proud to serve as a TA soldier for a year with the Royal Artillery in Newport. I didn’t leave the country, or face anything more dangerous than an angry sergeant, and I spent more time cleaning and doing guard duty than firing weapons! However I did learn some valuable lessons about teamwork and discipline which have stayed with me ever since. We live in much more dangerous times and I pay tribute to all those who serve in the regulars and reserves and sign up knowing that there is a high likelihood that they will be called to dangerous parts of the world. Not only that but during the current Covid-19 crisis members of the armed forces have been deployed in a variety of role including as emergency paramedics – I witnessed them in action a few weeks ago and cannot praise them highly enough. We are lucky to have such a fine body of men and women in the service of this country.
We can all agree on the need to invest in transport schemes over the coming years, and getting started quickly might be one way to help fire up the economy following lockdown. One scheme that will be of particular interest to all of us in the county is the proposed upgrade to the South Wales relief line. Local train-spotters (but not many others) will be aware that there are extra tracks running between Cardiff and Bristol. They are currently used for carrying freight and for passenger trains in emergencies. However these tracks are not built to enable trains to run at high speed. A simple plan is to upgrade the tracks then run extra passenger trains on them between South Wales and Bristol. This simple scheme has now cleared the first of several bureaucratic hurdles and I can assure passengers that I will be doing everything possible to nudge along through.
The lockdown has been a disaster for local shops which were already facing arguably unfair competition from online retailers. With shops now opening up on our high streets it has never been more important to shop locally. Whether its coffee or clothes, we have some brilliant locally owned high street retailers so lets go out and give them our support.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 1 July 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 2 July 2020*