Council backs plans for £100m global centre of rail excellence in Wales

A £100m train testing site on the border of Neath Port Talbot and Powys has taken a major step forward after the local council voted to approve the joint venture.

Neath Port Talbot Council leader Rob Jones called it an “important step forward” for the Global Centre of Rail Excellence which he said will create jobs and prosperity in the area.

Transport secretary Ken Skates unveiled the plans in June last year to create the £100m centre capable of testing current and future train technologies, with an unused opencast mine in Neath Port Talbot the preferred site.

The facility will include accelerator, rolling stock and infrastructure testing as well as storage, decommissioning, maintenance and servicing assets to the wider industry and supply-chain.

Cabinet members on Neath Port Talbot Council have now voted to approve the joint agreement with Powys County Council and the Welsh Government.

The proposals followed £1.9bn plans from KeolisAmey to upgrade the network last year after it won the £5bn deal to run Wales and Border rail services.

Whilst manufacturers currently have to send trains across Europe for testing, the complex will allow trains to be tested on special tracks at speeds of up to 100mph.

Council leader Jones said: “There is a great deal of work yet to be done but this joint venture agreement is an important step forward.

“There are few opportunities to bring in large capital investments of this scale to our valleys.

“Neath Port Talbot Council will be working closely with the Welsh Government and Powys County Council to realise the jobs, skills, community and economic benefits.”

The Welsh Government say the facility will alleviate the gap in capacity at existing testing facilities but also support research into new technologies for rail electrification, hydrogen power and digital railways.