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Stena Embla is due to start sailing between Britain and Ireland in the New Year

THE Swedish ferry company Stena Line has officially taken ownership of its newest ferry:- 'Stena Embla,' following a handover ceremony in Weihai, China. The name Embla is connected to Stena Line's Scandinavian heritage. It is an Old Norse name. In Norse mythology it was the name of the 1st woman. Its origin comes from the Old Norse word for:- 'elm.'

Stena Line is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, offering the biggest fleet and the widest choice of routes between Ireland and Britain including Dublin to Holyhead, Rosslare to Fishguard, Belfast to Cairnryan, and the Belfast to Liverpool and Heysham routes, a total of 232 weekly sailing options.

The vessel is number 3 of 5 new next generation E-Flexer RoPax vessels that are being constructed, at the CMI Jinling Weihai Shipyard, as part of an extensive modernisation of the company's fleet. It's the last of the 3 new vessels heading for service within the Irish Sea, marking the end of a 7 year development programme, totalling ₤400m of investment within the new ferries and port infrastructure within the Region.

Stena Embla Neil Whittaker on Heli Pad

The vessel will now embark on a 6 week journey to the UK and Ireland, where it will begin service in January 2021, joining its sister vessels, the other 2 new E-Flexer ferries built in Weihai:- Stena Estrid and Stena Edda, which started in operation in early 2020.

Due to the Pandemic the handover was a lower key affair than previous vessels with Stena Embla's Senior Master Neil Whittaker, and his team, taking delivery in China. While Stena Line's CEO Niclas Mårtensson joined remotely from the firm's Headquarters, located in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Stena Embla Neil Whittacker on the Bridge.

The company's COO Peter Arvidsson said:- "This marks the end of 7 years hard work, so we are delighted to take ownership of the third new ship on schedule. With the new crew in place they can start the long journey to the Irish Sea, where Stena Embla will begin serving customers in the UK and Ireland."

Niclas Mårtensson said the delivery of Stena Embla marks the end of a very difficult year for the firm:- "Taking ownership of Stena Embla is a major milestone for Stena Line, as we look forward to better times ahead. While delivery of the vessel marks the end of a very tough period for us, it also marks the completion of a very significant investment in our Irish Sea operations. It reflects our strong support for the Region that will see 3 of the world's most modern ferries operating between Britain and Ireland. We recently celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the relocation of our Northern Ireland operations to Belfast and 25 years since, we commenced the Holyhead to Dublin route. Our 3 new ferries in the Region is a sign of our strong commitment to another 25 years on the Irish Sea."

The new Stena Line E-Flexer ships are amongst the most advanced and fuel efficient vessels in operation and are much larger than today's standard RoPax vessels. At 215 metres in length, Stena Embla will provide freight capacity of 3,100 lane metres, meaning a 40% increase in freight tonnage, and the space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers and crew. The remaining 2 E-Flexer vessels under construction in China are even larger versions with a total length of 240 metres. The destination of the as yet un-named ferries has not yet been revealed.

Christmas travel measures to help passengers plan their journey and travel safely

THE Government has outlined a series of measures focused on minimising disruption and helping people travel safely over the Christmas period, while urging passengers to plan their journeys carefully, consider quieter routes and where possible book ahead. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a comprehensive plan for the Christmas travel window between 23 and 27 December 2020, including lifting hundreds of miles of:- roadworks, enhancing rail services, postponing and accelerating rail engineering works and cutting ticket charges to help travellers with their journeys. The Government is also working closely with transport operators to establish priority areas for testing of workers, to maintain and maximise services. As roads and rail have typically been quieter over the course of the Pandemic, journeys during the Christmas period could be longer and busier than usual. The measures to be outlined today are targeted at supporting passenger and staff safety, reducing disruption wherever possible, and helping people travel with confidence. Travellers are also reminded to closely follow guidance, including:- wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing and washing their hands frequently.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:- "With many people carefully considering whether to travel to see loved ones this Christmas, we're taking steps to try to ease journeys. Clearing 778 miles of road works and postponing rail upgrade works will ease congestion, minimise disruption and allow extra services to run. That action is backed by scrapping the admin fees for changing advance rail tickets, ensuring a strong staff presence to help people on their way. And I've asked former Olympics transport boss and Chair of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy to carry out a rigorous assessment alongside transport operators to ensure everything possible is being done to help. We're working with transport operators to help people see their loved ones, safely. We ask everyone to closely consider their journey, plan and book ahead, be patient, and be considerate of fellow passengers; and particularly staff who have worked so hard all year; by following the guidance carefully, including keeping space and wearing a face covering on public transport."

The Government is also working with the Devolved Administrations on our plans to ensure we take an aligned approach as far as possible.

Measures outlined include:-


The Government is waiving change of journey admin fees for Advance tickets purchase before new Covid tiers were announced on 26 November 2020, enabling fee free changes and ensuring passengers are not left out of pocket for complying with the new Covid restrictions.

Longer trains will run on Anglo Scotland and Liverpool routes to boost the number of seats at anticipated busy times on the West Coast Main Line. Chiltern Railway will also run additional services, on the 27 December 2020, and East Midlands Railway will run a full intercity timetable over the Christmas period.

Over 95% of the rail network will be unaffected by engineering works. Network Rail have altered their plans and the works on the East Coast Main Line will be postponed at the end of service, allowing additional services to and from King Cross on Christmas Eve. Works on the West Coast Main Line will also be completed earlier on the 27th, to enable a full Sunday service to run from 10am rather than midday, making it easier for passengers to return from their Christmas bubbles.

Rail engineering works such as the East Coast Upgrade have been planned for two years. Cancelling or delaying these works would see benefits to punctuality, safety and reliability deferred by up to 2 years. Significant extra road capacity will be in place where demand is greatest.


An additional 288 miles of maintenance works will be removed, with a total of 778 miles of roadworks on motorways and A-roads now cleared.

Where essential roadworks must continue speed limits will be set at 60mph where possible, including on key routes such as the M6 and M1, to keep disruption to a minimum.

Ministers have written to all Local Authorities with the request that they lift as many roadworks as possible and ensure bus services are running reliably over the period, to ease traffic on local roads.

Ministers have also written to all Local Authorities to ensure winter preparedness, with around 70% confirming they will modify gritting routes to ensure testing centres are covered.

The Government appointed Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail, to act as a Christmas travel tsar on Friday. Providing rigorous scrutiny of the plans of all rail, road, coach, maritime and aviation operators, he will ensure a collective focus across the transport industry on minimising disruption and supporting passengers.

Sir Peter Hendy said:- "Throughout the Pandemic, the transport industry has been united in its efforts to keep passengers and staff safe. We must ensure that shared focus continues at this important time. The measures announced today will help ease congestion, boost capacity and minimise disruption for travellers. I will continue to work closely with all operators and offer recommendations that will see people home safely for Christmas."

Travellers are being urged to closely consider the timings of any journey and consider quieter routes. On rail and coach services, passengers should book in advance. Long distance rail operators, including LNER and Avanti West Coast, already require passengers to have a ticket booked with a seat reservation, enabling social distancing. For operators where passengers can still turn up and go, passengers are urged to book ahead, follow the guidance on social distancing closely, avoid the busiest times and consider using alternative forms of transport for shorter journeys.  Whatever the journey, people are asked to plan carefully, book ahead where possible, and be prepared for journeys to take longer than normal.

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