Home » Plans to re-build local bridge in Neath Port Talbot as part of new railway testing centre
Neath Port Talbot Politics South Wales

Plans to re-build local bridge in Neath Port Talbot as part of new railway testing centre

Clergyman’s Bridge On Onllwyn Rd The Bridge could be demolished and re-built (Pic: Google Maps)

PROPOSALS to demolish and re-build a road bridge in Neath Port Talbot have been submitted as part of plans for the new Global Centre for Rail Excellence development.

The bridge in Onllwyn, known as the Clergyman’s Bridge, could be replaced in the coming months, after developers for the new rail testing centre said it was too low for modern freight trains to pass underneath.

They are now proposing the demolition and redevelopment of the bridge, on Onllwyn Road, on with a new design that will feature concrete beams, deck, and abutments, and will provide enough clearance for the installation of “new rail tracks, access, and overhead line electric structures.”

A report within the plans read: “The proposal aims to demolish and re-develop an existing bridge, providing a development that is both respectful to the original bridge and appropriate in character, enabling the development to assimilate within the site’s wider natural and historic environment.

“In doing so, it is hoped that the development will have a strong sense of identity and a sense of place that reflects its location within Onllwyn, whilst reflecting its historical context.”

The site of the bridge connects to the A road network of the A4109, and is located to the north west of Onllwyn village. It provides what is described as a minor rural link between the village of Onllwyn and the villages of Coelbren and Caehopkin.

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While plans say the road would be closed when the work takes place,  a  transport assessment contained within the application says that a diversion route would be put in place for motorists, which is not expected to have a significant impact.

The site of the £250 million centre  was funded by the Welsh and UK Government, and was approved by members of Neath Port Talbot and Powys County Council in 2021. It will see the creation of a 550 hectare site that features electrified testing tracks, as well as space for research, development and education facilities, based on the former Nant Helen opencast site and Onllwyn Washery in Neath Port Talbot and Powys.

It is expected to be fully operational by 2025, and will run 24 hours daily, testing new railway vehicles such as high-speed trains and hydrogen-powered rolling stock, with a 4.5 kilometre looped track and 6.9 kilometre outer looped track at the south-east of the site.

It is expected that part of this loop track could go under Clergyman’s Bridge once completed, with the plans now expected go before the local authority’s planning committee in the coming months.