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We are developing proposals for a modern rail industry testing facility in south Wales.

Part of:
First published:
13 July 2018
Last updated:


Project status: planning (consented)
Region/county: south Wales
Start date: end 2017
End date: 2023/2024
Cost: approximately £150 million
Partners: Neath Port Talbot Council and Powys Council

What we are doing

We are planning to build a world class rail testing centre. This will allow rolling stock and infrastructure testing and innovation. The site is located at the Nant Helen surface mine and Onllwyn coal washery at the head of the Dulais and Tawe valleys.

The Nant Helen surface mine site will include:

  • electrified high-speed outer rail testing track (6.9km) with testing speeds of up to 110mph
  • electrified low-speed infrastructure testing track (4.5km) allowing speeds of up to 40mph
  • dual platform station environment 
  • 25kv overhead line equipment (OLE) infrastructure

The Onllwyn washery site will include:

  • research, development, education and training/conference centre 
  • an operations and control centre/office 
  • staff facilities
  • rolling stock storage/sidings
  • rolling stock maintenance facility 
  • 25kv overhead line equipment (OLE) infrastructure

Infrastructure will be made up of:

  • access routes
  • staff car parking
  • drainage 
  • lighting 
  • mobile and land-based communications ‘hyper-connectivity’ 
  • CCTV 
  • perimeter/security fencing which may include sound controlas required 
  • Neath and Brecon branch line connection and signalling upgrade

Why we are doing it

We want to deliver a world class train testing facility in the UK that will:

  • provide a vital service to UK and international train manufacturers, network operators, the wider industry and the supply chain
  • fast-track improved services for passengers and freight operators
  • deliver significant efficiencies for the rail industry and the delivery of major projects
  • be a key asset in achieving decarbonisation and sustainability targets
  • accelerate the throughput of innovation and support Wales and UK exports
  • provide high quality jobs and training opportunities locally
  • be a significant attraction to private sector investors

Current progress

We have created a new company, GCRE Ltd, to deliver the project. The company is:

  • developing a detailed business plan
  • undertaking ground investigation work on site

These will inform government financial commitments to the project. Welsh Government has committed £50 million and UK Government £30 million.

Planning permission was granted in summer 2021.

How we are consulting


Public consultation: summer 2019 and autumn 2020
Planning application submission: spring 2021
Planning approval: summer 2021
Site preparation / construction: 2022 to 2025
Phase 1 operational: 2023
Fully operational: 2025

Next steps

Earthworks will begin on site in spring 2022 to prepare the land for rail infrastructure.