AMEY and Serco have joined calls for a new Global Centre of Rail Excellence in South West Wales at the soon to be decommissioned opencast mine at Nant Helen and the nearby coal washery site at Onllwyn.

The planned 3-stage construction programme for the Global Centre of Rail Excellence would see Phase 1 operational by 2023, and the site fully complete by 2025.

Earlier this week, Powys County Council and Neath Port Talbot Council approved consent for the earthworks for the new rail testing facility. The focus has since shifted to the central Government, which is currently examining the outline business case and request for financial support.

Amey and Serco have supported the Welsh Government in developing plans for the testing centre, which will include a 6.9km, 110mph rolling stock test oval with overhead line electrification, a tunnel for high-pressure testing, a 4.5km high tonnage infrastructure test loop, and world-leading R&D, education and training facilities.

If approved, the Global Centre for Rail Excellence will create a world-leading facility for research, development and testing of rail technology in South-West Wales. The combination of physical infrastructure and digital data-driven capability would help make it unique in the UK and Europe, and one of the most advanced facilities of its type in the world.

Amey, with a turnover of £2.2bn, employs 16,000 people internationally with a focus on the UK, but with businesses in Australia and America.

Peter Anderson, Managing Director of Amey’s Transport Infrastructure business, commented: “We are proud of our role as a major employer and partner in areas of the UK that are central to the government’s levelling up agenda, including the Midlands, North of England, Wales and Scotland. Our presence in these regions is already supporting their recovery from the pandemic; it also makes us well placed to support their ongoing regeneration.

“The Global Centre of Rail Excellence is a shovel-ready project that would have an immediate and lasting impact on both the economy of South Wales and the wider UK rail industry. The Welsh Government deserves credit for developing such a forward-looking and compelling business case. We trust the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Department for Transport will agree.”

John Whitehurst, Managing Director for Transport at Serco, said “As a trusted partner of governments delivering a wide range of public services, Serco is delighted to be working in partnership with Amey to support the realisation of the ambitious Global Centre for Rail Excellence.  Through our current delivery of railway operational testing services and associated engineering support, we are aware of the real demand that exists across the sector in the UK for significant new facilities.

“The Global Centre for Rail Excellence is an outstanding opportunity to bring real benefits to both the UK rail industry through the delivery of world-class development, operational and testing facilities and to the local and Welsh economies.  We commend the Vision that has been created by the Welsh Government and its partners and look forward to the momentum that has been created continuing as the business case is brought to life”

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