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New proposed rail testing facility to transform western valleys

A new rail testing facility is expected to transform western valleys by creating new high-quality jobs. The facility is located on a former opencast mining site at the head of the Dulais and Swansea valleys.

The proposed train, rail infrastructure and technology testing facility - known as the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) - will be on the site of Nant Helen opencast mine in Onllwyn, in the next few years.

The centre will support innovation in the UK and the international rail industry through being a testbed facility and utilising green technologies, to drive accelerated innovation in the industry.

Initial concepts for the centre were developed by the Welsh Government, alongside input from experts across the global rail industry. In order to support the new facility, the Welsh Government are also investing £50m as part of wider plans to support the delivery of the facility in the valley area.

Speaking during his first visit to the site, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “It was great to visit the proposed site of the new Global Centre of Rail Excellence here in Onllwyn today.

“The coal industry is why we have communities here in the south Wales valleys. Miners and their families settled here from across Wales and the rest of the UK to work in our mines.

“With the arrival of the proposed new Global Centre of Rail Excellence in the next few years, our valley communities will again be at the heart of a new world-class global industry. This will help create the next generation of high-quality jobs, attracting new investment and opportunities for local people, driving new technologies and innovation and helping us to realise our ambition of a greener, cleaner and stronger Wales.

“It will put Wales on the map as the go-to country for UK and international train manufacturers, network operators, the wider industry, supply chain and academia, to research, test and develop innovative new technologies that underpin de-carbonisation and development for the global rail industry. It will also be a magnet project for further new opportunities, bringing more quality jobs and investment to our communities.”

The GCRE facility was a collaborative approach with Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, and Powys County Council as part of the process to develop the proposals. The partnership between the Welsh Government and other councils was first established in 2019 to support project development and delivery. It also involved extensive engagement and consultation with stakeholders and those within the local communities.

A land option deal was completed for the sites at the Nant Helen surface mine and Onllwyn coal washery. Local councillors are currently considering the submitted formal planning application.

For the project to progress to the next stage, a new GCRE company will also be set up as the project changes from being government led and supported by the industry, to being industry led and supported by government instead.

RTM Dec/Jan 23


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