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Cabinet urged to speak to UK Government over rail testing centre plans

By Elgan Hearn | Mid Wales | Transport | Published:

Powys County Council's ’ cabinet could have more influence on the UK Government to support the £100 million Global Centre of Rail Testing Excellence (GCRE) than the Welsh Government.

Powys County Council leader Cllr Rosemarie Harris

A spanner has been thrown into the works as it emerged that there is a rival bid vying to become the UK’s only rail testing centre.

The proposal for the £100 million GCRE for the Nant Helen coal drift mine near Ystradgynlais is getting to the planning phase.

But discussions between Welsh and UK Governments over funding are at a delicate stage.

At a meeting of the Economy, Residents, Communities and Governance scrutiny committee, Welsh Government economic advisor, Arthur Emyr, said: “Welsh Government are trying to exert as much influence and pressure as we can.

“As we discussed with cabinet last week, every bit of influence and wherever it comes from should be brought to bear at this point.

“In many ways Powys is interestingly placed to use channels of influence that may not be there in Neath Port Talbot or Welsh Government.”

Council leader, Rosemarie Harris, told the committee that cabinet members had already discussed how to push the case for the GCRE at Westminster.

Councillor Harris, said: “Cabinet is extremely supportive of this.

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“We are going to work as hard as we can to arrange meetings with UK Government, ministers and secretaries of state.”

Opportunity

Committee chairman Councillor Mathew Dorrance said: “This creates a real opportunity to turn the tide on some of that challenges of post-industrialisation challenges and create a longer term prosperity.”

Welsh Government Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates MS, is due to meet Nadim Zahawi, the UK Government’s Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to discuss the project soon.

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It is hoped when built, that rail companies and Network Rail would flock to the site, creating extra jobs through research and design projects.

The rail-testing tracks which allow trains to be tested at speeds of up to 100mph would help other developments such as the South Wales Metro.

It would also allow train drivers to have their skills tested under realistic conditions.

Powys County Council is part of a joint venture with Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and the Welsh Government, to develop the site which straddles the local authority boundary.

The proposal is set to go to start a month-long pre-application consultation on Thursday, September 17.

A planning application is expected to be submitted by the end of the year.

Elgan Hearn

By Elgan Hearn
@ElganPowysLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Powys.

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