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Updated 20th July 2015

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 The train describer at Welshpool on tne morning of 18th May

Extra services! The train describer at Welshpool on the morning of 18th May.    Photo;- Angus Eickhoff


You can download a copy of our latest newsletter in *.pdf format.

   Newsletter 67 July 2015

Up and Down the Line

The station refurbishment with new toilets, waiting areas and booking office is now complete. See the pictures. Whilst undoubtedly an improvement, a snap poll of passengers in early April by SARPA found that extra carriages, more services, direct London trains and the restoration of the line to Carmarthen were of at least equal concern for users at the station.

Long serving Trolley Man and SARPA member Dave Taylor has retired after 25 years plus service. We wish him a long and healthy retirement.

Wetherspoon's have installed a large TV screen in their main bar area, giving up-to-date train departure information. We think that a similar device in the Old Station at Welshpool would be helpful.

 The rebuilt booking office at Aberystwyth
The interior of the rebuilt booking office at Aberystwyth Station.    Photo;- Gareth Marston
 The new entrance canopy at Aberystwyth
The new entrance canopy.    Photo;- Gareth Marston

Borth is to have extra car parking space made available in conjunction with the introduction of the enhanced train service. Also, we understand there are plans to close at least one of the level crossings in the Borth area, though at present we are not sure which, given that there is a choice of EIGHT, including foot crossings! We think that either Capel Sion or Capel Soar may be involved.

You can see a complete list of all level crossings on the network by clicking here.

Meanwhile, British Transport Police (BTP) have been clamping down on crossing misuse with an initiative called "Operation Look". This has involved Police vehicles with number plate recognition facilities and officers handing out leaflets to motorists at level crossings. The operation is taking place at various locations throughout the UK.

In the 9 months from 1st April to the end of 2014, crossing misuse has resulted in 400 people being charged, 568 Driver Awareness Courses, 16 Cautions, and 357 Fixed Penalty Notices .

BTP have also released a video of some very scary things being done by road users and which is featured below.

Work to provide more car parking space at the station continues apace, with the former stationmaster's house already having been cleared away to make the land available.As part of the scheme the number of disabled car parking spaces will also be doubled from two to four. Also, the public toilet block on the east side of the station has been demolished, with facilities now being provided in the station building as a temporary measure. We hear that a brand new toilet block is to be constructed at the original location.

Meanwhile, the extensive work to construct a new footbridge with disabled access has stalled. There were no contractors seen at the site by a SARPA party passing through on 24th June and there appeared to have been no further progress by 11th July. We understand the reason for this is that unstable ground has been found behind the Up platform and that measures are being put in place to correct this before construction continues.

One result of this is that where possible, only the Down platform at Machynlleth is used for the time being. Passengers from Up coastline trains are sometimes being advised to change at Dovey Junction as a temporary measure.

Members of the public who have questions about the programme should call the Network Rail 24-Hour National Helpline on 08457 11 41 41.

We understand that the Station Action Group continues to make slow progress against all the hurdles placed in their way. They recently had a meeting with Edwina Hart at Carno. A further meeting with the Minister has been postponed until the autumn.

The station house was recently for sale, with an asking price of £125,000. Selling agents were Morris Marshall & Poole in Newtown.

Planning permission for a change to residential use would have to be sought if a prospective purchaser wishes to reside at the property. Like other buildings on the Moat Lane to Machynlleth section, the substantial stonework probably came from the cutting at Talerddig.
 Caersws Station House is for sale
Caersws Station House                Photo:- Owain Betts for Morris, Marshall and Poole, Newtown

Newtown Station Travel has been opening slightly earlier to accommodate travellers for the 0738 to Shrewsbury from the start of the enhanced service timetable on May 18th. .

The cafe which opened in the station building a few months ago has now closed.(Again!)

Powys County Council has completed work on the new bus station in the town. The design can only be described as disappointing and has proved unpopular with drivers and passengers alike. Instead of the straight through layout which pertained before the alterations, buses now pull into a dead end and have to reverse out again before continuing their journeys.

With pedestrians walking across the site at all times, a hazard has been created which quite simply was not there before. Drivers are not be able to see anyone walking across in their blind spots whilst reversing. Also, the seats in the shelters face away from the buses, which means passengers have to turn round to check if it is their bus which has arrived at the stand.

Probably designed by people who never use buses. Looks pretty though!

Work has been completed in closing the level crossing at the site of Forden Station.Trains now pass through the old station site at maximum permitted line speed.

Buttington-Trewern School have teamed up with Arriva Trains Wales to provide floral decoration at the station. Arriva have provided two tubs for the project and children from the school planted bulbs in December.

Concern has been expressed at the lack of additional parking space for rail passengers arriving by car, which could become acute when the service frequency is enhanced next year. Additional space could be made available on the east side of the station, although where the funding to convert it into car park space will come from is not clear.

Recent efforts by SARPA to have the Welshpool Town Bus service actually stop at the station have once again come to nought!

Buttington Crossing Collision
The report on the accident was released early in 2014; it can be accessed online by clicking here.

We have heard, via "Sources from within the industry" that the centre freight road through the station is to remain out of use for the time being. We understand that part of it will be lifted to allow access for bridge repairs beneath, within the station area. The intention is to replace the track at the conclusion of the engineering work.

Traws Link Cymru
Ceredigion MP Mark Williams met recently with the Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb and representatives of Traws Link Cymru to discuss their campaign to reopen the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line. Mr Williams said that there is now a huge amount of interest and growing momentum for the campaign: so that it was very important to promote a dialogue with the UK Government. The representatives put a strong case to the Secretary, who seemed genuinely interested in the issue.

Birmingham New Street
Touch screen enquiry displays have been introduced on the station concourse.These give details of the next direct train to the destination selected by touching the screen.

Passengers using Birmingham New Street will note that progress continues on the massive rebuilding project at the station, with large areas where work continues being panelled off.

The final piece of the station's new atrium roof covering was put into place on Tuesday 14 September 2014, marking another important milestone in the station's redevelopment. Made from the same high-tech material as the Eden Project in Cornwall and the Allianz Arena in Munich, the translucent roof covering will allow natural light to stream down through the atrium onto the huge new concourse below - but not before demolition experts remove around 6,000 tonnes of concrete over two floors of the old Pallasades shopping centre.

Chris Montgomery, Network Rail's project director for the Birmingham New Street project said:

"As our work to transform New Street station continues, excitement among our 1,000-strong workforce is really starting to build. Piece by piece, the design and concept for the station is being brought to life and it's great to see the last section of the new roof covering lifted into place."

We understand that there are also proposals for a moving "travelator" which will operate between New St and Moor St stations.

You can find out more about the project by visiting

Network Rail have kindly allowed us to use the pictures below, which give an artists impression of the rebuilt station. The webmaster rather feels that the striking atrium feature would be further enhanced by some large plant life. An opportunity for Birmingham Botanical Gardens perhaps?
 The new atrium at Birmingham New Street station
The station will feature a large atrium over the ticket hall and concourse. A great improvement.
 The rebuilt station from the London end
The rebuilt station from the London end

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Other News


Archive Newsletters
We have now included an archive of previous newsletters on this site, right back to 2001. These are *.pdf files and they have an added advantage over the photocopied originals in that you can see all the photographs in full colour.

You can access the archive by
Clicking Here.

Live Train Maps for the Cambrian
The site Open Train Times now have live Cambrian maps, giving positions of trains in real time. These can be found at

Enhanced Service Update
The new timetable got off to a reasonable start on Sunday May 17th and thus far has been a great success.Loadings could be improved, however and we look forward to some better local publicity.

The tables below show departures from Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth.

Departures from Salop.

Reporting No













Birmingham New Street






Birmingham International











Birmingham International






Birmingham International






Birmingham International






Birmingham International











Birmingham International











Birmingham International




Departures from Aberystwyth

Reporting No




Birmingham International






Birmingham International






Birmingham International



Birmingham International






Birmingham International



Birmingham international



Birmingham International






Birmingham New Street


Turnaround times @ Aberystwyth approx 14 min.

Dovey Junc - Dovey Junc times approx 54 min.

In our view,the absence of 0830 and 1630 departures from Shrewsbury are unfortunate. We hope that there are plans to strengthen the 1727 ex-Salop to cope with what undoubtedly will be heavy demand. Also, a 2030 departure from Aberystwyth in the summer months would probably be popular, though the present arrangements east of Shrewsbury would only allow the passenger to travel as far as Wolverhampton at that time of day.
 First weekday extra service at Welshpool
Monday 18th May. The first weekday additional service arrives at Welshpool    Photo;- Angus Eickhoff

Shrewsbury to Chester:- Bob Hargreaves
The Shrewsbury - Chester Rail Users Association (SCRUA) is extremely sad to have to learned of the passing of one of its stalwart members and most prominent and active campaigners, Bob Hargreaves of Bwlchgwyn , Wrexham on July 18th. Bob was a long time activist in the Association and used his contacts in the political and railway world to great effect, most recently in relation to the successful campaign to save the 0747, weekday Wrexham to Birmingham International service. Although having been ill for some months he was able to be present at SCRUA's Annual General Meeting in Wrexham in June

Film:- "Of Time and The Railway"

Robert Davies is an artist living near Aberystwyth. He filmed every week from the cab of a Class 158 between Birmingham & Aberystwyth. The movie starts as the train enters Birmingham on a wintry night, travels through the Black Country and Shropshire in the morning as winter and spring pass and arrives in Shrewsbury at around mid-day. In summer it speeds through to Welshpool and as autumn approaches, runs through to Newtown and Caersws.It continues through winter to Talerddig and Machynlleth and arrives at Aberystwyth in the spring.

The film will be shown at all the major galleries on the route between Aberystwyth and Birmingham.

There will be a showing at Borth station Museum on 30th July at 19.30, with further screenings from 1st August. The artist will be giving a talk at at Pen'rallt Gallery Bookshop on Thursday 6th August at 18.30. It has also been selected for screening at the The National Eisteddfod of Wales in Meifod between 1st and 8th August.

The video feature shown below is from Birmingham Urban News and gives details of showings in the Midlands.

Other Screenings:- Information and Venues

Mid Wales Arts Centre
28 March - 30 October 2015
Caersws, Powys SY17 5SB
Tel. 01686 688369/07970671819
Free admission

mac birmingham
4 July - 20 September 2015
Cannon Hill Park, West Mids B12 9QH
Tel. 0121 446 3232
Free admission

MOMA Wales
20 - 31 July 2015
Heol Pen'rallt, Machynlleth SY20 8AJ
Tel. 01654 703355
Free admission

Powysland Museum
31 July - 5 September 2015
The Canal Wharf, Welshpool SY21 7AQ
Tel. 01938 554656
Admission :- £1.00

Pen'rallt Gallery Bookshop
1 - 31 August 2015
Heol Pen’rallt, Machynlleth SY20 8AJ
Tel. 01654 700559
Free admission

Borth Station Museum
1 - 31 August 2015
Cambrian Terrace, Borth SY24 5LN
Tel. 01970 871850
Free admission

Oriel Davies
19 - 30 September 2015
The Park, Newtown
SY16 2NZ
Tel. 01686 669637
Free admission

Wolverhampton Art Gallery
26 September -
5 December 2015
Lichfield St, Wolverhampton WV1 1DU
Tel. 01902 552055
Free admission

Special screenings at stations along the Cambrian railway line:

Machynlleth Railway Station: 21 July – 17 September

Newtown Railway Station: 19 September – 31 October

Shrewsbury Railway Station: 2 November – 3 January 2016

Aberystwyth Railway Station: 4 January – 28 February

Network Rail Reclassified
Network Rail (NR) was reclassified as a public sector body on 1 September 2014 following a statistical change by the Office for National Statistics announced in December 2013. This means that NR is now open to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

On the down side, it means that NR is now answerable to the Treasury. We hope that this does not mean a return to the good old bad old days of BR, who had to go cap in hand to the Treasury to obtain any investment at all.

Rail Smartcar
Mercedes have gone one step forward in bizarre rolling stock with a smart car on rails. A what?

The smart Forfour based "train" is something of a puzzle. How on Earth could some people intermix two of the most prominent modes of transportation. Rail is mass-network for a larger number of people while smart cars are entirely on the other end of the line with room for only four people. The Smart Forrail, as the founders call it, does indeed exist making us wonder the exact reason behind its development.

The company spent six hard months working on this car. The conversion was deemed as incredibly complicated by the company despite what may appear, teaming up with British design specialists Interfleet for some gruelling CAD based designing, tests and simulations. The smart car was to be converted into a rail-based platform, and all necessary groundwork was to be done. The most obvious alteration was the solid-steel flanges wheels. Rail vehicles do not need steering, so the whole system was dropped. The front axles were also welded to avoid any untoward movement from the metal wheels.

Not that this sort of thing that hasn't been tried before however. Does this herald a new generation of Colonel Stephens light railways perhaps?

Here is a video of it working on the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. The question we would like to ask is "Whatever is it for?"

Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Railway Liaison Committee
The Liaison Committee which comprises County Councils, Town and Community Councils, Network Rail, Arriva Trains, British Transport Police, Aberystwyth University and other interested railway groups. recently announced they now have their own website. The remit of the committee is to discuss, gain information and influence improvement of passenger services and all other aspects affecting the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Railway Service

Meanwhile Welshpool Town Council still have available on their website, previous proceedings of the Liaison Committee. This material goes up to February of this year. You can access this information by clicking this link.

Ticket Machines & Split Ticketing
THE NEWS GOT IT WRONG... Self service ticket machines won't tell you cheapest price. News reports in December told us that, from March, train ticket machines will tell you the cheapest fare. NOT TRUE...

1) They just have to warn you they may not be cheapest.

2) They ignore split ticketing, which on some routes halves costs.

There are quite a number of split ticketing websites available. Here are a few to try

For mobiles:-

For looking up any fare:- Will even offer you a day return from London Victoria to Calais, including sea passage for £39.50p.

Possible reopening Aberystwyth-Carmarthen?
The West Wales Rail Campaign - Traws Link Cymru(TLC) continues to make progress with its plan to re-instate rail links between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. They have also added their weight to the scheme to restore the line between Bangor and Afon Wen on the Cambrian Coast line, to create a rail corridor along the west coast of Wales. However, their projected journey times of 90 minutes for the 56 miles between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen is somewhat unambitious and not really competitive. In truth the trip should take no more than 70 minutes to be attractive.

To update; following a meeting in May with Edwina Hart's civil servants, TLC were delighted to receive the fantastic news that the Welsh Government will provide £30,000 towards a scoping study on a potential reopening of the Carmarthen-Aberystwyth line. The Welsh Government will work with TLC and other bodies and a report is due in October. We hope this initial study will lead to a full feasibility study on reopening this much needed and much-missed line. The news was very warmly received at a well attended meeting in Aberaeron on Friday, 26 June. The group took the opportunity to outline the social, cultural and economic case for the line and dispelled the myth that most of the line has been built on. Just to reiterate, 97% of the line is clear and Network Rail themselves foresee no problems to the line's reopening.

They also have a very active Facebook page.

Railfreight reopening in Cannock
An £18 million rail terminal at Pentalver based in Norton Canes, has been given the go-ahead by Cannock Chase Council.

Managers at freight delivery company Pentalver say building the terminal is the right decision for Cannock. The ambitious scheme has been given the go-ahead by Cannock Chase Council, despite concerns about noise. The company, which employs more than 300 people, plans to run up to six trains a day directly to and from south coast ports, cutting down on empty trips to rail depots to pick up containers.We understand that the site had a rail link in the past and that Pentalver chose the location because of this. The main elements of the scheme will be railway sidings, acoustic fencing and two rail-mounted gantry cranes. The sidings will be on a lower level that the adjacent land, causing limited visual impact.

Don't forget the Two Together Railcard (Yes, it has its own website) which allows two named people over 16 to travel together and receive a discount of one-third off all fares, at all times except between 0430 and 0930 on Monday - Friday. You don't have to be related! The card will cost £30, but a discount of £3 can be obtained online here. The offer is available until 17th May 2015 but can only be obtained when you purchase your card online.

The card is also available from station ticket offices. Each person must provide a passport photograph. The card can only be used when the two named people travel together so does not replace any existing railcards.

The Welsh Government's ongoing obsession with road building schemes continues. The vast amount being spent on the A465 "Heads of the Valleys" road in South Wales, originally amounted to a total spend of around £800m. Since we first reported this on the website we have heard from various sources that the road has been gobbling additional money at an alarming rate, to the extent that it has been dubbed "The Black Hole". The snazzy video is still on line, with the opportunity to post a caustic comment, if you feel so inclined. By the way, if you actually drove like this and the law got wind of it..... well you wouldn't have a licence any more! Still, one presumes the Welsh Government feels it has to do something to inspire the petrol-heads. The total amount of money being thrown at this pile of tar would be enough to take the railway from Moat Lane Junction back to South Wales again. Rather better value for money and the Welsh economy.

There are rumours that the extent of the overspend has been serious enough to delay the start of construction for the much vaunted and misguided Newtown Bypass. Meanwhile, we have been able to identify no less than FOUR snazzy videos of the route, all displaying a fair amount of what we might say is illegal driving to boot. We wonder if in any way, such profusion of media presentation is a portent the final cost!

Yet More Roads..........
What a whacky world we live in! Passenger Focus has just taken on another transport remit; ROADS! Now, Passenger Focus is supposedly the watchdog for public transport user interests. Not the road lobby. We are certainly worried about this as they already have several organisations which work on their behalf.

Anyway, they have just appointed a roads director. Anthony Smith. He writes:-

"This is new work in a new field. We will follow the approach that has worked well in public transport: find out what people want, what they most want improved and then measure ongoing satisfaction."

Ultimately we want to create a new way of measuring the satisfaction of road users that gives quick feedback from a representative group of users. This is new but we believe that through harnessing technology we can create a new research method that will allow us to benchmark the user experience around the country."

Well its fairly obvious what road users want. More Roads! What will make them satisfied? More Roads! The trouble is that Fifty Years Of More Roads has not solved the problem of congestion, whilst at the same time countless railway assets have been laid to waste.

"Transport Focus's new remit will include freight transport users for the first time" says the blurb on their website. "The research that Transport Focus is undertaking will help to identify what can be done to improve the performance of our roads." What is clear is that the public would welcome a return of most freight to the railway. Indeed, this would probably be a sure fire vote winner if any politician was brave enough to stick their head above the parapet and suggest it.

The logistics sector has problems with poor profit margins; as low as 3%. Sometimes even less. Correctly targeted investment and innovation by the rail industry could bring great benefits to distributors. This would be in the spirit of co-operation rather than competition.Some operators, like Stobart have already seen the light and are taking rail very seriously. The answer is certainly not "More Roads", nor is it pandering to the road industry.

And another thing! Whilst we're on the subject of Cash Gobbling Roads..........
Well, it's a bit off our patch and probably none of our business. Nevertheless, we could not help noticing that Scotland has been much in the news in recent months so we shall take the opportunity to pass comment on the Scottish Government's obsession with roads. They want to put dual carriageway on the A9. More astonishingly, they want to perform the same trick with a rebuild of the A96, which runs between Elgin and Inverness! The cost of this truly gargantuan quantity of tarmacadam is projected at a hefty £6bn for both routes. A real gobbler! Fortunately, we are at least spared the snazzy bad driving video in this instance.

We have to confess a small interest here, as we hope such deeds will not encourage the The Welsh Government, given over as they are to expensive highway schemes, to consider dualling the A470 when they have finished throwing money at the A465. Moreover, the Chairman points out he is not called 'Angus' without good reason.

We came across the Scottish highway scheme via the Far North Line website and to be entirely fair to the Scottish Government, there are also substantial works planned for the Aberdeen - Inverness Railway too, involving route and signalling upgrades and improvements to line speed to give an end to end time of 2 hours, with talk of a half hourly service between Inverness and Elgin as well.

This is welcome news for the route, which in the '60s was scheduled for closure under the Beeching Plan, along with everything else North of Aberdeen. The scheme managed to go as far as chopping up most of the former Great North of Scotland Railway (GNoS) network, including the iconic Speyside Line and also the Buchan section, where recently there have been tentative mutterings about reopening.

It is worthwhile taking time out to consider what else might be achieved if the £6bn were to be spent in different ways. Given that the Borders Railway has delivered 30 miles of rebuilt route for around £300m, does the road scheme along the North East Coast actually offer reasonable value for money? The upgraded road will no doubt be a fantastic place to put the Beamer through its paces when the cops aren't looking but what for the rest of us, who cannot afford the latest BMW offering?

SARPA members have on many occasions made the point that road travel is all very well but you still have to find the money to buy a car, tax it, insure it and pay the maintenance, in addition to the fuel costs. For young people, this is an increasing burden - indeed the cost of car insurance for the under 25s is now quite prohibitive. Additionally, unless you can afford a chauffeur to drive the Beamer for you, working whilst on the move is totally out of the question. Given the opportunities for this offered by modern computing and communication devices, road transport is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to business travel.

We would surmise that problems with the road might be addressed relatively cheaply, with selected upgrades to remove serious pinch points. This would leave substantial sums for improvements to public transport infrastructure.

An intelligent scheme would be to take the railway back to Banff, which would do much to bolster the economy of the region. This could be achieved using much of the old GNoS alignment and with a probable price tag of less than £400m.We understand that Park Signalling in Manchester have devised a wizard scheme for signalling secondary lines, which if fully developed could significantly reduce the cost. Also, to save meandering across the countryside from the erstwhile Lossie Junction, it would make sense to branch off from the existing railway near Lhanbryde and link up with the old route between there and Garmouth.

There is indeed the problem of a humongous hole which has been dug for mineral extraction to the West of Portgordon but this is not insurmountable and the former junction at Tillynaught would need to be re-aligned as the line from Banff went North-South, rather than East-West. Also, a new route near Cullen would be advisable to avoid reinstating that horrible curved platform, which is now replaced by housing anyway.

There would be stations at Buckie, Cullen, Portsoy and Banff. For an hourly service, trains would need to cross on a dynamic loop near Lhanbryde and at Portsoy, with loops at all stations to allow for flexibility.

Possible timings from Elgin, which are based on those already being achieved here on the Cambrian are a wake up call and in reality vital for the success of a reopened railway. Buckie would be reached in 17 minutes; Cullen 26 minutes; Portsoy 35 minutes and Banff 47 minutes with schedules from Inverness taking less than 90 minutes over the whole route. The key to this is the fantastic bridge over the Spey at Garmouth, which has lain idle since the line closed.
 The Spey Bridge at Garmouth
The Spey Bridge at Garmouth                         Photo:- Ronnie Leask/Wikimedia Commons

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Steam News

So far attempts to find a solution to the problem of fitting UK steam traction which is suitable for the Cambrian, with
ERTMS signalling equipment continues to draw a blank. Meanwhile, the chairman has written a discussion paper regarding the future for steam traction on the Cambrian lines. Essentially he favours new-build machines for tourist work and suggests a construction programme as part of an engineering training scheme. You can access the paper here.

Not really news but more a reminder that 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the Talyllyn Railway (TR). To celebrate the event, the two original locomotives have been repainted in a version of the original livery. Substantial research revealed that when first built, the engines were turned out in a Tuscan red livery, similar to that employed by the Furness Railway. Both were built by Fletcher, Jennings at the Lowca Works in Whitehaven, but to very different designs.

 Dolgoch at Abergernolwyn
Talyllyn Railway, "Dolgoch" at Abergernolwyn on 11th July    Photo;- Angus Eickhoff

Also, as part of the festivities, on 5th July the Ffestiniog Railway's Prince and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway's Russell came to Tywyn Wharf station. They were steamed on parallel tracks, to give short demonstration runs alongside TR locos. Watch the Youtube video of the event here.

At the time of writing, there is no steam scheduled to stop at Shrewsbury for the remainder of 2015. Full details of all steam traction on the main line can be found at

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Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passengers Association (SARPA)
   Llidiart Wood,   Moel y Garth,  Welshpool,  Powys,  SY21 9JF,  Wales,  United Kingdom
© SARPA 2005-2015
All Rights Reserved
Website:- Angus Eickhoff