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Developers need more time to submit detailed plans of £150m rail testing centre

Train Testing Centre (Pic: Arup)

DEVELOPERS of a rail testing facility in the south of Powys want more time to be able to produce detailed plans for the £150 million scheme.

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) has lodged a non-material amendment planning application with Powys County Council so that it can extend the three year time limit to submit a reserved matter planning application for the development.

As the proposal which is to be built at the Nant Helen opencast coal mine near Ystradgynlais crosses local authority boundaries, an identical planning application will also be submitted to Neath Port Talbot council.

Planning agent for GCRE, Fairhurst said:  “The principal aim of this non-material amendment application is to allow the applicant additional time to submit all reserved matters whilst still ensuring that the first reserved matter is submitted before August 4, 2024, whilst not increasing the overall time limit of implementing the consent.”

Fairhurst believe that this change in the planning permission can be done using the NMA method as it: “does not alter the development at all and therefore does not cause any impact which is different to that caused by the original approved development scheme.”

Global Centre of Rail Testing Excellence (GCRE) Graphic

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Planning committee on July 29, 2021, councillors approved the principle of the £150 million train testing centre as they believed the economic benefit outweighed all other concerns.

The development which spans the former Nant Helen opencast site and Onllwyn Washery will include two electrified test loops, one will be a 4.35 mile high speed rolling stock track with a maximum speed of around 110 mph with a potential to go up to 125 mph.

Other facilities will include a dual-platform test environment, rolling stock storage and maintenance facilities, operations room, staff accommodation and connections to the main line.

There will also be visitor and conference facilities, a business park, and a hotel.

The GCRE venture was set up in 2021 with a commitment of £50 million from the Welsh Government.

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The UK Government has provided £20 million and a further £7.4 million comes from Innovate UK for Research and Development.

GCRE say that the facility:  “will be a one stop shop for testing new rolling stock and supporting world class research, development and certification of new rail infrastructure, technologies, processes and skills – something that currently doesn’t exist on a single site in either the UK or in Europe.”

The project was expected to be fully operational by 2025, bringing a potential 300 jobs for the area.

A decision on the application is expected by May 15.