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Charles carries out first engagement in Wales since coronavirus lockdown

Charles met staff at Edwards Coaches in Mountain Ash, south Wales.

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Charles meets staff at Edwards Coaches (Ben Birchall/PA)

Charles meets staff at Edwards Coaches (Ben Birchall/PA)

Charles meets staff at Edwards Coaches (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Prince of Wales met staff at a travel and holiday business in Wales during his first engagement in the country since the coronavirus lockdown.

Charles visited Edwards Coaches, which has been run by five generations of the Edwards family since 1925, in Mountain Ash, south Wales, on Monday.

He heard how some of the 600 members of staff at the company helped people from 90 homes in nearby Nantgarw to safety following devastating flooding in February.

Staff told Charles how they rushed to the village within minutes of receiving a call and evacuated people to Llantrisant, where a crisis centre was set up.

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Prince Charles meeting staff at Edwards Coaches (Ben Birchall/PA)

Prince Charles meeting staff at Edwards Coaches (Ben Birchall/PA)

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Prince Charles meeting staff at Edwards Coaches (Ben Birchall/PA)

The heir-to-the-throne last carried out engagements in Wales on February 21, when he met those affected by the flooding in Pontypridd town centre.

Ian Evans, 35, a transport supervisor, told Charles that being part of the evacuation team was an “emotional experience”.

“He asked me how I felt about it, how the emergency services were,” Mr Evans said.

“I said they were second to none.

“I was in the office that morning and our boss Jason Edwards took the initial call.

“He told me to get some buses together and we were on scene within 10 minutes.

“It was just about getting light at the time and then you could see how bad it was.”

Nicholas Evans, 45, a local bus driver, told Charles how he had been due to drive to the depot to start his usual route on the day of the flooding in Nantgarw.

“I had a phone call saying ‘ignore the route, get to Nantgarw as soon as possible’,” he said.

“Within 10 minutes we were over there. It was devastating. There was eight-10 feet of water but the residents were all in good spirits.”

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Flooding in Nantgarw in February (Ben Birchall/PA)

Flooding in Nantgarw in February (Ben Birchall/PA)

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Flooding in Nantgarw in February (Ben Birchall/PA)

Around 20 members of staff were introduced to Charles by Jason Edwards, the company’s managing director.

Many did not know of the royal visit until Charles’ car pulled into the industrial estate.

Keiron Evans, 58, was asked by the prince what it was like in Nantgarw after the flooding.

“I said it was heartbreaking, especially seeing the pensioners coming out. That really upset me,” Mr Evans said.

“I was on holiday and I got a phone call and said ‘I’m on my way’.”

Nigel Owens, 45, organised nine coaches from the company to go to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital for the Clap for Our Carers to show support for NHS staff.

Mr Owens told Charles that his wife Angela works as a theatre nurse at the hospital.

“He was asking me about how she has coped through Covid-19 regarding her personal protective equipment (PPE),” Mr Owens said.

“Her face is badly bruised from it all but she has never complained once. She loves her job; she has been there 11 years.

“It is upsetting because they see the other side of it. He was asking me how she has managed to get through it.”

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Charles during a visit to Pontypridd in February (Jacob King/PA)

Charles during a visit to Pontypridd in February (Jacob King/PA)

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Charles during a visit to Pontypridd in February (Jacob King/PA)

Edwards Coaches has been run by five generations of the Edwards family since it was established and now operates 310 coaches.

Before the pandemic, the company would carry more than 40,000 holiday passengers as well as operate school transport for 6,000 children each day.

“It was such an honour and a privilege for someone like him to come to a small family business from a small community in south Wales,” managing director Jason Edwards said.

“His Royal Highness wanted to know the impact of Covid on a successful business.

“We were established in 1925 and I don’t think anything or anybody has seen anything like this.

“He did ask about whether we are seeing the possible signs of recovery, which we are starting to see.

“We’ve had a lot of people wanting to book coach holidays as soon as they can.”

Mr Edwards said the business had been risk-assessed for Covid-19, has limited capacity on coaches by at least 50%, increased cleaning and provided hand sanitiser on board, as well as installed purifying air conditioners.

“We will come back stronger for it, but it has been really tough,” he added.

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