Council leaders in Powys and Neath Port Talbot have warmly offered strong support for the Global Centre for Rail Excellence announced by Economy Secretary Ken Skates.
Following the news that CAF is to build Wales’ first modern train manufacturing facility, the Welsh Government is responding to the demands of major rail companies to establish an integrated Global Centre of Rail Excellence.
It would offer a bespoke innovation accelerator, rolling stock and infrastructure testing, storage, decommissioning, maintenance and servicing assets to the industry and the wider supply chain.
Transport Secretary Ken Skates said: “Last year, Welsh Government and CAF announced the first modern train manufacturing facility to be built here.
“The factory is nearing completion, and trains for use in Wales will soon be built there.
“Earlier this month I announced details of the new, transformative, low carbon Wales and Borders rail service.
“From a standing start a few years ago, Wales is now developing as a home for our domestic rail industry. There is more we can do. I want our country recognised across the UK and Europe as a major hub.
“Our Economic Action Plan signalled a new approach to creating opportunities for developing our economy. I’m now signalling the next chapter of implementation of that plan.”
A number of potential sites for the centre are still being researched, but one is coming out as the preferred option – the mothballed open cast mine in Nant Helen, on the Powys and Neath Port Talbot border, and the adjacent and operational coal-washery site in Onllwyn.
Ken Skates added: “This area, at the top of the Dulais Valley, has been reliant on the coal industry for generations.
“With this era drawing to a close, there is great potential for investment drawing on existing and new skills.
“This is also a project that could make an important contribution to the work of the Valleys Taskforce, providing good quality jobs and the skills to do them.
“I have therefore instructed Welsh Government officials to move to the next stage of business case development, which will involve continued and close partnership working.”
The news was warmly welcomed by Powys and Neath Port Talbot Councils.
Councillor Rob Jones, leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, said: “This project demonstrates that we are determined to meet the challenge of regenerating and bringing new jobs to our communities in the Heads of the Valleys area.
“There is further work to do; but this project is a clear statement of intent to deliver real change for the Valleys, creating good-quality jobs, closer to people’s homes and building upon the work that has been led by Alun Davies and the Welsh Government’s Valleys Taskforce as well as this Council’s own team.
“The local authorities now look forward to working closely with the Welsh Government and the sector to deliver this exciting investment.”
Councillor Rosemarie Harris, leader of Powys County Council, added: “The project demonstrates that rural Wales has strong role to play in driving the Welsh economy forward and that we are serious about turning the legacy of open cast mining sites into positive change for our communities which improves opportunities for employment and improving people’s skills”.
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