Welsh Government, in partnership with Neath Port Talbot and Powys Councils, has been working with rail industry experts and academia to help finesse proposals for a Global Centre of Rail Excellence in Wales.
Extensive ‘soft-market-testing’ was carried out with rail industry stakeholders earlier this year to examine the business need and incorporate technical advice and feedback into an initial masterplan design, which formed the basis of early engagement with the local community in the summer.
Economy and Transport Minister Ken Skates said:
“There has been a great deal of support and enthusiasm for the project and we are continuing to develop the business case and move forward with plans to submit a planning application in early 2020. Lots of positive opportunities have been identified through discussions and the project team is looking at ways to maximise the project’s potential.
Discussions are continuing with the rail industry to ensure a viable, sustainable and investable project that can proceed into delivery. As part of this process, a range of senior rail industry leaders have been brought together to form a Project Evaluation Group to examine work undertaken to date, analyse project viability and assess the best way forward. The Group is expected to report back early in the new year and feedback will help inform the final proposals.
In parallel, and to help fast track investment and innovation, work is progressing to establish an Innovation Accelerator as an integral part of the project. This will bring together the rail industry, academia and R&D centres to innovate, develop, test and validate new solutions for the rail industry that will support and speed up commercialisation and access to market of emerging technologies.
Feedback from the early engagement, Project Evaluation Group and Innovation Accelerator workshop, as well as results from the Environmental Impact Assessment will inform the final proposals for a Global Centre of Rail Excellence in Wales.
Cllr Rosemarie Harris, Leader of Powys County Council, said:
“This innovative project, which would provide a much-needed rail testing facility of international significance and bring a high-level of investment leading to associated economic benefits for the region, has to be warmly welcomed. We very much look forward to progressing the project to a successful conclusion ensuring that we gain the maximum economic return from this truly unique opportunity.
Councillor Rob Jones, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, said:
“This project has the full support of our Council and it is an important component of both the Welsh Government and the Council’s wider plans to regenerate the Valleys by bringing high quality jobs and significant investment to the area.
The final masterplan proposals developed by the Welsh Government will form the basis of statutory consultation before the planning application for a Global Centre of Rail Excellence in Wales is submitted in early 2020.
The proposals form an important addition to the site’s restoration strategy being brought forward by Celtic Energy and will act as a driver for rail industry innovation, investment and growth in Wales, the wider UK and internationally.