A new testing facility will be built in south Wales after approval was received from all local authorities for its construction.

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) received approval from Neath Port Talbot Council last month, but it has now formally received the go-ahead after Powys County Council approved the Welsh government’s application for the site.

GCRE will be built on the site of the Nant Helen opencast mine in Onllwyn, currently operated by Celtic Energy. The Welsh government is providing £50m of funding and the British government £30m.

The 475-hectare site will feature a 6.9km electrified outer loop capable of testing rolling stock at speeds up to 177km/h, while the inner loop will have a maximum speed of 65km/h.

The facility will be available to both British and international companies wishing to test trains and infrastructure. There will be a dual-platform test environment, rolling stock storage and maintenance facilities, operations and control offices, staff accommodation, shunting staff facilities and a connection to the nearby main line. The site will also have facilities for research and development, education and training. 

The Welsh government believes the site will act as a driver for accelerated innovation in the rail industry. It also believes the GCRE will become the “go-to” site for British and international manufacturers, operators, the wider industry, supply chain and academia.

“The new centre will help create the next generation of high quality jobs and drive new technologies and investment,” says Mr Vaughan Gething, Welsh government economy minister.

A land option deal has been completed for the sites at Nant Helen and Onllwyn which sees Celtic Energy gift the land needed for the new facility and is the first commercial partner in the scheme.

A new GCRE company will be established as the project moves from a government-led scheme supported by the industry to an industry-led scheme supported by government.

Spanish train builder Talgo has previously shown an interest in operating the site for the Welsh government.