UK: Proposals for the development of a ‘world-leading’ railway testing facility in Wales are to be set out by Welsh government Transport Secretary Ken Skates on June 25.

The proposed test centre would have two electrified test ovals of 7·3 km and 3·1 km suitable for continuous running at up to 160 km/h, offering an alternative to the Siemens facility at Wildenrath in Germany and Velim in the Czech Republic. There would also be rolling stock and infrastructure storage, maintenance, servicing and decommissioning facilities.

It is envisaged that the site could be used for the development of hydrogen and battery powered trains, as well as ‘next generation’ signalling technology.

A number of potential sites are being studied, but the preferred option is a mothballed opencast mine in Nant Helen, northeast of Swansea, and the adjacent coal washery site in Onllwyn. ‘This area, at the top of the Dulais Valley, has been reliant on the coal industry for generations’, said Skates. ‘With this era drawing to a close, there is great potential for investment drawing on existing and new skills.’

The cost of the development is estimated at £100m, which would require ‘local support, private sector investment and the commitment of manufacturers, rolling stock companies, network operators and a range of other stakeholders’, said Skates

CAF is currently building a rolling stock factory at Newport which will produce multiple-units for the next Wales & Borders franchise. ‘From a standing start a few years ago, Wales is now developing as a home for our domestic rail industry’, said Skates, adding that he wanted Wales to be ‘recognised across the UK and Europe as a major hub’.