£100m train test complex plans for Neath valley backed

A new-look train Image copyright TfW
Image caption The site would test new trains for the Wales and Borders network

A £100m train testing site on the Neath valley/Powys border would create jobs and prosperity, a council leader says.

Rob Jones spoke as Neath Port Talbot's cabinet backed a joint venture to set up a Global Centre of Rail Excellence.

Currently manufacturers have to send trains across Europe for testing before they come back to the UK for service.

The Nant Helen opencast mine near Ystradgynlais is the preferred site for the scheme, which Powys council leaders are expected to back on Thursday.

Plans for the complex - dubbed Project Hornby - were announced by Welsh Government last summer, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

It followed the announcement of KeolisAmey as winner of the £5bn deal to run Wales and Border rail services and to develop the South Wales Metro.

The complex would allow trains to be tested on special tracks - laid out on 4.5 mile (7.3km) and two mile (3.1km) ovals - at speeds of up to 100mph (160kph).

Image caption Nant Helen was mothballed in 2016 with the loss of 75 jobs

Mr Jones said: "There is a great deal of work yet to be done but this joint venture agreement is an important step forward.

"There are few opportunities to bring in large capital investments of this scale to our valleys.

"Neath Port Talbot Council will be working closely with the Welsh Government and Powys County Council to realise the jobs, skills, community and economic benefits."

The Nant Helen opencast mine is the preferred site, along with the coal washery next door at Onllwyn, which is still operational.

Nant Helen was mothballed in 2016 following a fall in demand, but in March, Powys councillors approved a request by owners Celtic Energy to resume operations there for another two years.

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