World class research, development and testing facility will help establish Wales as a global leader in rail technology


Keolis UK, leading partner in the joint venture operating the Wales and Borders rail franchise has today joined the call 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.


Powys County Council and Neath Port Talbot Council recently gave planning consent for the earthworks programme which paves the way for the new rail testing facility. The focus has now shifted to central Government, which is currently examining the outline business case and a request for financial support.


Both Keolis and Amey, as joint venture partners operating trains in Wales for Transport for Wales 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 given final approval, the proposed 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.


Keolis UK, part of the larger Keolis Group, with worldwide experience and expertise of running railways  recognises this as an incredible opportunity to benefit Wales and the UK and was keen to give their support to the project, which if delivered will be a cornerstone of the Welsh Government’s vision to maximise the potential to transform its rail network.


Alistair Gordon, CEO of Keolis UK said:

“When we were awarded the contract to operate the railway in Wales we did so knowing the enormous economic and social benefits that would stem from the Welsh Government’s vision.


“The Global Centre of Rail Excellence is a part of that vision. This is a shovel-ready project, ready to harness and develop the very best industry expertise both here in Wales and beyond and turning it into something which would quite quickly become the go to facility for research, testing and learning not only here in the UK but globally.


“This period of transformation on Welsh railways is the perfect time to deliver on this project. It’s an opportunity that must be grasped with both hands and we look forward to its progress at the earliest possible opportunity and playing our part to make it a centre of excellence.”


Peter Anderson, Managing Director of Amey’s Transport Infrastructure business,


“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 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.”


Facilities at the centre would 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
  • A platform and station environment
  • Research and development, education and training facilities
  • Staff facilities and overnight accommodation