Council receives £33 million towards development of Rail Testing Centre of Excellence
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
The first part of a loan worth £50 million to develop a Global Rail Testing Centre of Excellence (GCRE) near Ystradgynlais, has been given to Powys County Council.
In total it is estimated that the project would cost £150 million.
At a meeting of the Independent/Conservative cabinet on Tuesday, May 25, an item on Treasury Management for the last financial quarter of 2020/21 revealed that £33 million had been handed over to PCC from the Welsh Government in March.
A further £10 million will be received in this financial year and £7 million next year.
If the project does not go ahead, the money would be paid back to the Welsh Government.
Finance portfolio holder Cllr Aled Davies said: “A special bank account had to be set up to deal with that.
“In time an investment company will be formed, and the money loaned to it.
“It’s taken a huge amount of work to put everything in place and all the due diligence around that.
“We must not forget that this is a really positive and exciting programme.”
“Global is in the title, which indicates the significance of this investment.”
The project also received a £30 million pledge from the UK Government in its spring budget.
Corporate director for environment and economy, Nigel Brinn said: “It’s great to see the project in this position with both government’s confirming funding.
“I’m sure everyone welcomes that and is keen to see the project progress.”
“We could not have forecast this six to 12 months ago.”
Council leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harris, added: “There’s a lot of work to be done, it’s so exciting especially for an area that needs jobs and investment.”
The treasury management report was accepted by cabinet.
The GCRE is supposed to be built at Nant Helen once Celtic Energy finish its coal mining operation later this year.
Powys is part of a joint venture with Neath Port Talbot Borough Council and the Welsh Government, to develop the site which straddles the local authority boundary.
At the end of March an outline planning application by the Welsh Government to build a Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) at the Nant Helen opencast coal mine, was lodged with both Powys and Neath Port Talbot.
It is expected that the application will be decided this summer.
Due to concerns in the area that the scheme could create noise pollution and impact the village of Caehopkin visually, the application has been “called-in” to be decided by the planning committee.
If successful the project is expected to be fully operational by 2025, bringing a possible 300 jobs to the area.
Under the plans, a 6.9-kilometre high-speed testing track and 4.5km low-speed high-tonnage testing track will be built at the site along with a dual platform station.
Plans also include a control centre, a research and development facility, maintenance sheds and staff overnight accommodation.