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Trains centre of excellence plan for mine site

By Karen Compton | Mid Wales | Transport | Published:

Plans to turn a surface coal mine into a £100 million a global testing centre of excellence for trains in Powys, have been submitted.

As the mine straddles the county boundary, Celtic Energy Limited, has lodged the plans to restore the Nant Helen surface mine near Ystradgynlais with both Powys County Council and Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council.

The project is now seen as a vital part of the recovery of the Welsh economy following the coronavirus pandemic.

Celtic Energy want to create two looped landform platforms.

This would provide a “comprehensive, flexible and adaptable landform” across the entire site.

They believe it could support a wide range of future uses including agriculture, woodland, nature conservation, leisure, tourism and employment.

Simon Jones, Welsh Government director of economic infrastructure, said: “If ever there was a time in to maintain momentum and demonstrate continued and positive progress to Welsh ministers, the UK government and the private sector in the UK and internationally, it is now.

“As we begin to confront the task of economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, the project represents a rare and vital inward investment opportunity to progress a multi-million pound infrastructure project here in Wales.”

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Mr Jones stressed that that the proposals link to the rail testing project.

Damian Barry, of Ove Arup and Partners, said; “The proposed earthworks would provide a landform that is compatible with Welsh Government’s emerging proposals for a global centre of rail excellence and if the project is found to be viable it could form an integral part of the site’s future.”

In May 2019, Powys County Council joined the Welsh Government and Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council in a joint venture to develop the rail-testing track.

Last year, coal mining was allowed to re-start and is set to continue up to December 31, 2021.

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Restoration work to the site is supposed to be finished by June 2023.

The site had been mothballed by Celtic Energy in October 2016.

But as another mine came to the end of its productive life, the company needed to use the coal left at Nant Helen, so that they could honour their existing contracts.

The restoration fund stands at £19.5million and Celtic Energy is expected to look after the site for 10 years.

Karen Compton

By Karen Compton
Chief Reporter

Reporter on the Mid Wales Journal.

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