Wales’s Economy and Transport Secretary Ken Skates has told Assembly Members that plans for a £100 Million world-leading rail-testing complex have taken a huge step forward.
Following the June 2018 announcement that the Strategic Outline Case for a Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) in Wales was approved, together with funding for next stage project development, significant progress has been made in the last 12 months.
|The project is now fully focused on the preferred Onllwyn/Nant Helen site in the Dulais Valley where there would be a 7km electrified test oval to run up to 110mph locomotives and stock, as well as another 3.1km oval, advanced signalling testing, a maintenance facility and sidings for 400 carriages as well as a decommissioning centre, R&D labs, office space and training suites.||
This landmark development is planned only 16 miles from where Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick started the steam age in February 1804 and won a wager for his Penydarren locomotive to haul 25tons of iron and 70 people between Merthyr Tydfil and Abercynon.
It is likely to create 150 jobs in an employment blackspot when fully operational in a few years after plans are drawn up for 2020.
Forming a Joint Venture Agreement with the preferred site’s neighbouring authorities, Neath Port Talbot and Powys, the Welsh Government is working to deliver a future beyond coaling operations that allows an appropriately restored site, together with a site eventually acquired on the basis it is suitably prepared for the construction of a test facility. This will obviously require an agreed way forward with the current landowner Celtic Energy.
Europe’s only other test and validation facilities in Germany and Czech Republic have 12 months waiting lists to use them.