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Centre for train testing in Wales given the nod

Mid Wales | Transport | Published:

Plans to develop a £100 million rail-testing track on the border between Powys and Neath Port Talbot have been backed by Powys County Council’s (PCC) cabinet.

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence could provide a major economic boost to the Ystradgynlais area, and a use for the Nant Helen open cast site, once it stops extracting coal, in a couple of years time.

At a meeting of the cabinet on Thursday May 9, it agreed to join the Welsh Government and Neath Port Talbot (NPT) Borough Council in the joint venture.

NPT signed the deal the day before at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, May 8. But the agreement was not valid until all parties had signed in favour of the deal.

PCC council leader, Councillor Rosemarie Harris, (Independent – Llangynidr), said: “A centre of excellence and rail test track at Nant Helen is an exciting opportunity.

“It could deliver hundreds of jobs and a huge economic boost to the area and a project that the Powys cabinet fully supports.

“Delivering a project on this scale will not be easy but by entering into a joint venture with Welsh Government and NPT we have demonstrated our commitment to the work and bring new jobs to the region.”

The rail-testing track – which  allows trains to be tested on special tracks covering  4.5 mile (7.3km) and two mile (3.1km) – at speeds of up to 100mph – was announced by Welsh Government’s, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, last summer.

A slight kink in the deal is that the land being considered for the track is owned by mining company Celtic Energy.

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This year it re-started coaling at Nant Helen. In March, it was given permission by PCC planning committee to continue mining there until December 31, 2021.

Restoration work to Nant Helen is supposed to be finished by June 2023.

A spokesman for PCC said that the extension to mining permission would not affect the track scheme.

The centre is supposed to give train manufacturers the chance of testing the vehicles in the UK before they start operating around the country.

At the moment manufacturers have to send trains across Europe for testing.

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