The Global Centre of Rail Excellence
The Global Centre for Rail Excellence (GCRE) is a new, purpose-built facility being constructed in South Wales that will become Europe’s leading rail innovation centre.
A ‘one stop shop’
The Global Centre of Rail Excellence will be a ‘one stop shop’ for testing new rolling stock and supporting world class research, development and certification of new rail infrastructure, technologies, processes and skills – something that currently doesn’t exist on a single site in either the UK or in Europe.
Operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the facility will include two electrified test loops, one a 6.9km high speed rolling stock track and a 4km track for heavy infrastructure testing.
Opening in 2025 it will become the UK’s first ever net zero railway, supporting the innovation needed to aid the UKs path to net zero and, crucially, helping lower the costs of major rail infrastructure projects. Located on a former open cast mine in the Dulais Valley, it will create long-term, high-quality jobs in an area of multiple deprivation and become a magnet for other, high-quality investments and R&D funding as part of an active industrial policy.
The Strategic Gap in Rail Today
Rail is one of our most critical national infrastructure assets. It employs more than 200,000 people and makes a £36bn per annum contribution to the UK economy. Prior to the pandemic, UK railways ran more than 20,000 services on an average day and across the country the UK has more than 21,000 track miles and associated infrastructure to maintain and upgrade. Major infrastructure projects are planned right across the country.
But while our economy, our lives and our country relies on this network, there has always been a missing piece of the jigsaw in rail testing and, particularly, infrastructure innovation. The UK and Europe has lacked an integrated, single site facility to test rail infrastructure, rolling stock, signalling and new technology and be a single site home to world class research and development. That causes a number of significant problems across the industry, including, with major projects impacted by significant delays and budget overruns caused by a lack of early testing and integration. Inadequate, fallback options are often resorted to, such as testing on the mainline.
Outline planning consent for GCRE was granted by Neath Port Talbot Council and Powys County Council in 2021. A range of consultants and contractors are now working in an alliance to design the site and begin preparation for construction. At 700 hectares the site is the same size as Gibraltar.
The Public Policy Benefits of GCRE
Having a dedicated facility like GCRE where single site, integrated testing can take place will have multiple benefits for the rail industry and other, cross-departmental, government objectives, including:
For the rail industry
GCRE will fill a strategic gap as a place to undertake world class testing, research and certification of new rolling stock, infrastructure, technology and ideas, helping speed up innovation and bring new products to market faster.
For governments across the UK and Europe
GCRE will support better value for money and greater cost control by testing new ideas and innovations before they are deployed in major projects, helping develop the transport systems of tomorrow faster and more efficiently.
For future generations
GCRE will support our urgent, collective need to tackle the climate crisis and reach net zero by helping develop new rail and transport technologies that can be deployed faster to reduce carbon emissions and encourage more people onto our railways.
And for the Economy
GCRE will generate long-term, high-quality jobs and support the creation of new skills for young people in an area impacted by four decades of deindustrialisation, becoming a magnet project that can draw in other, high-quality investments.
A public procurement exercise began on 23rd November to secure private investment for the project. This process is due to conclude in the autumn of 2023.