Welsh Transport Secretary Ken Skates has unveiled plans to build a ‘world-leading’, £100m rail testing facility in the south Wales area of Neath Valley that will be used to work on next generation train technology.

The project, which is still at the early stages, would be built on an opencast mine in Neath Port Talbot and would allow testing trains on special tracks, laid out on 4.5 mile (7.3km) and two mile (3.1km) ovals, at speeds of up to 100mph (160kph). The test circuits would feature their own platforms and tunnels.

The facility would be used to develop the next generation of hydrogen and battery-powered trains, as well as to test infrastructure, deploy digital signalling technology and for storage, decommissioning, maintenance and servicing.

A series of similar railway-related projects is expected to be announced in the coming months after French-Spanish operator KeolisAmey took over the franchise from Arriva Trains Wales in October and won a bid to run Wales and Border rail services and South Wales Metro.

Skates said it would need local approval and private sector backing: “This is 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. I have therefore instructed Welsh Government officials to move to the next stage of business case development, which will involve continued and close partnership working.

“It is not a project that can proceed without local support, private sector investment and the commitment of manufacturers, rolling stock companies, network operators and a range of other stakeholders to back it now and into the future.”

With KeolisAmey set to move its global headquarters to Wales, a £100m rail depot is expected to be opened at Taff’s Well.

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Skates said the preferred option would be to site the new facility at Nant Helen’s mothballed opencast mine near Powys and at the coal washery site of Onllwyn.