Economy and Transport Secretary Ken Skates has told Assembly Members that plans for a 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.
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.
Welsh Government and its JVA partners are also working in partnership to develop and submit a formal planning application for the project. Considerable work has already been undertaken and environmental impact surveys have been commissioned. A formal planning application should be ready for submission by early 2020, subject to wide consulting with the local community and other stakeholders on the proposals.
Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates said:
“In line with the new approach our Economic Action Plan sets out, this project takes us in a new direction. Rather than reacting to the needs of individual businesses, this is a solution to an industry wide problem. Our aim is to create a facility attracting the leading lights of the business world and draw them to put down long lasting and valuable roots in Wales.
Cllr Rosemarie Harris, Leader of Powys County Council, said:
“We are very pleased to be working in collaboration with the Welsh Government and our neighbours Neath Port Talbot Council on this innovative project, which would provide a much-needed rail testing facility of international significance being constructed in Powys.
“The opportunity to bring in such a high-level of investment, leading to the associated economic benefits into the region, has to be warmly welcomed. We very much look forward to progressing the project to a successful conclusion ensuring that we gain the maximum economic return from this truly unique opportunity.
Councillor Rob Jones, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said:
“These are exciting times and the authority looks forward to working in partnership with the Welsh Government and Powys County Council to deliver a project of this kind. This project is of such magnitude to the industry it is a feather in the cap of this authority and Wales as a whole to be part of its delivery.
It is estimated the facility will need around £100m investment. It would employ around 400 people in the construction phase and upwards of 150 people permanently when fully operational in all aspects.
The Transport Minister has also written to the Secretary of State for Transport, and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, asking for their support. The GCRE is closely aligned with UK Government as well as Welsh Government policy objectives.