UK: The 700 ha site for the Global Centre of Rail Excellence research and testing facility at the former Nant Helen opencast site and Onllwyn washery has formally been acquired from mining company Celtic Energy, the Welsh government’s Economy Minister Vaughan Gething has announced.
Outline planning consent for the £250m GCRE was granted by Neath Port Talbot Council and Powys County Council in 2021, and contractors including Walters Group, Atkins, Fifth Studio, Arcadis and Mott MacDonald are now working to design the facility and prepare for construction in early 2023.
Development will be undertaken in three phases:
- provision of sidings for rolling stock from summer 2023;
- construction of the 6·9 km, 180 km/h ‘high speed’ test loop and 4 km, 60 km/h ‘infrastructure’ test loop along with supporting facilities and buildings from 2024;
- addition of expanded stabling, maintenance and commissioning facilities along with research facilities, a hotel and business park from 2025.
‘GCRE will be a unique facility offering world-class testing of infrastructure, rolling stock and new technologies that will fill a much-needed gap in the rail industry’, said Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters on October 28. ‘Crucially, it will help manage the cost of rail projects by testing ideas earlier before their deployment on projects and support the vital innovation we need to get to net zero.’