The Welsh Government has revealed plans to establish an integrated ‘Global Centre of Rail Excellence’, a £100m rail testing facility in the region.
The site would offer a custom-built innovation accelerator, support rolling stock and infrastructure testing, storage, maintenance, decommissioning and servicing assets to the industry and the wider supply chain.
The new facility will also put an end to the normal practices of sending trains to testing and validation centres in Germany and the Czech Republic.
Once the new centre is established, it will reduce pressure from train makers to dispatch trains across Europe for testing before putting them back for service in the UK.
Transport secretary Ken Skates said: “Last year, the Welsh Government and CAF announced the first modern train manufacturing facility to be built here. The factory is nearing completion, and trains for use in Wales will soon be built there.
“Earlier this month, I announced details of the new, transformative, low carbon Wales and Borders rail service. From a standing start a few years ago, Wales is now developing as a home for our domestic rail industry.
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“There is more we can do. I want our country recognised across the UK and Europe as a major hub. Our Economic Action Plan signalled a new approach to creating opportunities for developing our economy. I’m now signalling the next chapter of implementation of that plan.”
The new centre, whose site selection work is under progress, will feature two fully electrified test ovals, which allow speeds of up to 160km/h.
Potential locations for the centre include the abandoned open pit at Nant Helen, on the border between Powys and Neath Port Talbot, and the adjacent and operating coal washing facility at Onllwyn.
Skates added: “This area, at the top of the Dulais Valley, has been reliant on the coal industry for generations. With this era drawing to a close, there is great potential for investment drawing on existing and new skills. This is also a project that could make an important contribution to the work of the Valleys Taskforce, providing good quality jobs and the skills to do them.”
The announcement comes after French transport firm Keolis and Spanish infrastructure management consultancy Amey received the Wales & Border franchise in October.