PLANS to build a £100 million rail testing centre on the edge of Powys could be derailed by a rival plan in England, it has emerged.

The major testing facility at the former Nant Helen open cast mining site on the border between Powys and Neath Port Talbot could face a rival application from German multinational Siemens, which has earmarked a site in Lincolnshire for a rival bid.

There can only be room for one such testing facility in the UK.

The issue was revealed at a meeting of Powys Council's economy, residents, communities and governance scrutiny committee on Monday, September 14.

Welsh Government economy advisor, Arthur Emyr, explained that the UK Government had been asked for £30 million to develop the site.

Mr Emyr, said:  “We are in a bit of a wrestling match with the UK Government in terms of their support for this project.

“What we need now is some certainty from the UK Government that this is the preferred site.

“We are in competition, there is a rival project led by Siemens.

“They have site in North Lincolnshire not far from Scunthorpe.”

County Times:

Nant Helen coal mine

Mr Emyr explained that the challenge was now to make sure the GCRE for Nant Helen is seen as “the number one site,” for the testing facility.

Mr Emyr added: “They are quite some way behind.

“There is nothing in the public domain, no planning applications or consultations in play, unlike GCRE which is generally well known and understood in Powys and Neath Port Talbot.”

But, he pointed out that Siemens has a well-established relationship and is “close” to the UK Government’s Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Committee chairman Cllr Mathew Dorrance (Brecon St John – Labour) asked how much of a risk the Siemens project is.

Mr Emyr answered:  “There are still commercial challenges that we can’t meet head-on until we have policy clarity, industry will sit back until there’s a decision.

“We have to move fast.”

Powys County Council is part of a joint venture with Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and the Welsh Government, to develop the site which straddles the local authority boundary.

The GCRE could provide a major economic boost to the Ystradgynlais area, and a use for the Nant Helen open cast site, once it stops extracting coal.

It is hoped when built, that rail companies and Network Rail would flock to the site, creating extra jobs through research and design projects.

The rail-testing tracks which allow trains to be tested at speeds of up to 100mph would help other developments such as the South Wales Metro.

It would also allow train drivers to have their skills tested under realistic conditions.

The proposal is set to go to start a month long pre-application consultation on Thursday, September 17.

A planning application is expected to be submitted by the end of the year.