A £30 million UK Government contribution to a planned rail testing complex between Neath Port Talbot and Powys has been welcomed by the local councils. The announcement of the funding award in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget speech (March 3) was described as a major step forward for the Global Centre of Rail Excellence project by the leader of Powys County Council, Councillor Rosemarie Harris, and Neath Port Talbot Council’s leader, Councillor Rob Jones.
Cllr Jones said: “Neath Port Talbot Council, the Welsh Government and Powys County Council have worked hard with partners in the private sector to drive this project forward and we warmly welcome this strong financial backing. If finally approved, the Global Centre of Rail Excellence will create a world leading facility for research, development and testing of rail technology here in South-West Wales. It will offer a substantial opportunity for economic growth in the South Wales valleys and throughout Neath Port Talbot and will also provide a major boost for high quality long-term jobs as well as building work in the construction phase.” Cllr Harris said: “I’m delighted that the UK Government will provide significant funding for the innovative project, which will provide part of the financial support package to enable this important project at the Powys border to commence. This is an exciting project and we will continue to work in collaboration with the Welsh Government and our neighbours Neath Port Talbot Council to progress this project so that the region can gain the full economic benefits this unique opportunity will bring.” The Welsh Government has estimated the project will cost about £157million, and the UK Treasury says it will now "match fund" up to £30million with the remainder coming from Welsh Government and private sector investment. The centre is to be located at the former opencast mine at Nant Helen, which is the preferred site for the test track, and a nearby coal washery at Onllywn - covering both the local authority areas of Powys and Neath Port Talbot councils. It is designed to showcase Wales as a hub for research and development and leading low-carbon rail technology. The idea is the facility will support UK train manufacturers with the capacity and capability for rigorous testing of rolling stock and rail infrastructure, from prototype to implementation.