The Welsh Government has announced £100m plans to establish what it called an integrated ‘Global Centre of Rail Excellence’, to support the country's domestic rail industry.
The new facility would offer a bespoke innovation accelerator, rolling stock and infrastructure testing, storage, decommissioning, maintenance and servicing facility to the industry and the wider supply-chain.
Onllwyn coal-washery. Picture: Roger Geach
Government officials said the £100m proposal was ‘responding to the clear demands of major rail companies’ and cited the decision last year by Spanish firm CAF to build a rolling stock factory in Newport.
Transport secretary Ken Skates said: ‘Last year, 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. There is more we can do. I want our country recognised across the UK and Europe as a major hub.’
Officials said that a number of potential sites for the centre are still being researched, but that ‘one is coming out as the preferred option’ – the mothballed open cast mine in Nant Helen, on the Powys and Neath Port Talbot border, and the adjacent and operational coal-washery site in Onllwyn.
Mr Skates added: ‘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.
‘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.
‘We estimate a bespoke facility like this will cost £100m to deliver, and 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.’