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We are planning a modern rail industry testing facility in south Wales.

First published:
13 July 2018
Last updated:


Project status: planning (consented)
Region/county: south Wales
Start date: end 2017
End date: 2025
Cost: £400 million (£70 million from public funding, with £330 million being sought through private investment procurement)
Partners: Neath Port Talbot Council, Powys Council and UK Government

What we are doing

The Global Centre for Rail Excellence (GCRE) will become Europe’s leading rail innovation centre, providing world class research, testing and certification of rolling stock, infrastructure and innovative new rail technologies. The site is located at the Nant Helen surface mine and Onllwyn coal washery at the head of the Dulais and Tawe valleys.

The facility will include:

  • electrified high-speed outer rail testing track (6.9km) with testing speeds of potentially up to 125mph
  • electrified low-speed infrastructure testing track (4km) allowing speeds of up to 40mph
  • dual platform station environment 
  • 25kv overhead line equipment (OLE) infrastructure

The site will include:

  • research, development, education and training/conference centre 
  • an operations and control centre/office 
  • staff facilities
  • rolling stock storage/sidings
  • rolling stock maintenance facility 

Infrastructure will be made up of:

  • access routes, 
  • staff car parking
  • drainage 
  • lighting 
  • mobile and land-based communications
  • CCTV 
  • perimeter/security fencing
  • Neath and Brecon branch line connection and signalling upgrade.

Why we are doing it

We want to deliver a world class train testing facility for a UK and European market that will:

  • provide a unique, purpose built rail innovation facility for the UK and European rail industry - train manufacturers, network operators, infrastructure managers and the supply chain.
  • fast-track improved services for passengers and freight operators
  • deliver significant cost efficiencies for the rail industry, including in the delivery of major projects
  • be a key asset in achieving decarbonisation and sustainability targets on the path to net zero
  • accelerate innovation in rail and bring products to market faster.
  • support increased Wales and UK export opportunities
  • support the attraction of increased Research and Development (R&D) funding into Wales.
  • provide high quality jobs and training opportunities locally and regionally.
  • be a significant attraction to private sector investors.

Current progress

A new company, GCRE Ltd, has been created to deliver the project. The company:

  • has developed a detailed business plan
  • is continuing preparation work on site for construction. 

These will inform government financial commitments to the project. The Welsh Government has committed £50 million and UK Government £20 million, with a further £7.4 million being provided for research and development.

Planning permission was granted in summer 2021.

How we are consulting


Public consultation: summer 2019 and autumn 2020
Planning application submission: spring 2021
Planning approval: summer 2021
Construction begins: early 2023
First commercial facilities open: summer 2023 (storage facilities on site)
Track construction begins: 2024
Fully operational: summer 2025

Next steps

GCRE has begun the next phase of plans to bring private sector investment into the company, GCRE Ltd. It has formally launched a public procurement process, with the publication of a Contract Notice and Selection Questionnaire inviting applicants to pre-qualify.

The public procurement process is expected to run until the autumn of 2023. Following this it is expected that GCRE Ltd will become majority owned by a private investor(s).