Welsh Transport Minister Ken Skates gets update on Global Centre of Rail Excellence progress

Recently, Cabinet Secretary for Transport Ken Skates got a progress update from the Global Centre of Rail Excellence team as he took a tour of the GCRE site in South West Wales.

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence is a new innovation facility currently being constructed on the former Nant Helen open cast mine near Onllwyn. GCRE will be a centre for international rail and mobility research, development and testing of next generation rolling stock, infrastructure and net zero transport technologies.

GCRE was an idea first developed within Welsh Government when Ken Skates was Transport Minister in 2017 and on Friday he got an update from Chief Executive Simon Jones as the Minister took a tour of the 700-hectare GCRE site, equivalent to the size of Gibraltar.

Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates said the development would play an important role in supporting economic growth in South West Wales as the region responded to the economic impact of job losses at the nearby Tata steelworks site in Port Talbot.

More than 180 companies have signed an open letter committing to using the new centre once its operational. GCRE is currently in discussions with potential private investors to secure capital funding for the development.

As part of the visit, GCRE formally launched a set of new images that illustrate how the GCRE site will look once it has been developed.

Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport Ken Skates, said:

“It was fantastic to return to the Global Centre of Rail Excellence and see the progress that has been made. What is very clear is that the Global Centre of Rail Excellence is one of the key ways in which we can support the regional economy of South West Wales as the impact of Tata job losses are felt in the coming years.

“The Global Centre of Rail Excellence is no longer just a drawing on a map, it’s a shovel ready infrastructure development with a growing customer base that can get going with construction in the next few months if the vital private investment it needs can be secured.

“Critically, GCRE will be magnet facility for Wales, helping to attract businesses, R&D funding and inward investment as part of innovation-led growth in this important part of the South Wales coalfield as it grapples with the economic shock to come.

“It was great to see the images of the new facility and to see first-hand the potential for transport to play such an important role in creating new economic growth.”

Chief Executive of GCRE Limited Simon Jones said:

“The Global Centre of Rail Excellence is a strategically important development, not just for Wales and the UK, but for Europe. Nowhere across the continent is there a facility for ‘one stop’ rail research, testing and innovation that will offer the range of services and capabilities for R&D and cutting-edge technology development that GCRE can.

“Such a world class facility would give Wales a distinct advantage in the modern economy, drawing in companies from many different countries wanting to use the unique testing infrastructure, set up their own facilities and ultimately bring jobs and investment to the local area.

“Since the very beginning GCRE has been an economic development project for Wales; an opportunity to create skilled employment and generate new skills opportunities that can help regenerate coalfield communities nearby that have been hit hard by more than four decades of deindustrialisation.

“It was great to show Ken Skates, who played such a pivotal role in getting the GCRE development started, just how far we have come in delivering that vision.”

Recently GCRE signed up Spanish Train Manufacturer CAF as the latest major client to use GCRE, joining the likes of Hitachi Rail, Thales and Transport for Wales who will all use the facility once its operational.

The new images released depict the GCRE Technology Campus, Washery and Basecamp areas of the site once they are fully developed.

Initially, GCRE will support around 150 jobs in the construction phase and a further 250 when it gets into full operation.

Over the following decade, GCRE could support a further 750 jobs through a major technology park it plans to host on the 700-hectare site.

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