Transport for Wales confirms major client agreement with Global Centre of Rail Excellence

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Transport for Wales (TfW) and GCRE Limited have confirmed an agreement for TfW to become a major commercial client of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence – a new rail innovation center being constructed at the head of the Dulais and Swansea valleys in Wales.

Chief executive of TfW James Price (left), and chief executive of GCRE Simon Jones (right)
Chief executive of TfW James Price (left), and chief executive of GCRE Simon Jones (right)

GCRE is a £400m research, testing and certification facility for rolling stock, infrastructure, and innovative new rail technologies. When it opens in 2025 it will be the UK’s first net zero railway and will include two 25KV electrified test loops – one a 6.9km high speed rolling stock track and the other a 4km ~60km/h infrastructure test track.

As part of the GCRE membership model, companies can take guaranteed testing and research time at the site when it opens, according to their innovation needs. The new agreement demonstrates TfW’s intent to take the highest level of membership at GCRE and become a ‘premium’ client of the facility.

The collaboration will see GCRE support TfW with its rail testing, innovation, and R&D. In addition, the deal paves the way for TfW to use other GCRE services, including storage, training, and product approvals in future as these are developed.

Welsh Government deputy minister for climate change Lee Waters said, “The Global Centre of Rail Excellence is one of the most exciting and important pieces of infrastructure being built anywhere in Europe today. It will be at the forefront of rail innovation, supporting the development of new products and technologies that will be the backbone of the high-quality, integrated and net zero transport networks we need right across the continent in the coming years.

“It’s fantastic that this agreement between GCRE and Transport for Wales has been finalized and that passenger delivery is going to be a central focus of the collaboration, ultimately benefiting communities and commuters right across Wales,” Waters added.

Chief executive of GCRE Simon Jones said the agreement was a “natural” one and would support the passenger delivery focus of TfW as well as the major infrastructure program it has across Wales and the Borders.

“Transport for Wales has a hugely ambitious slate of major projects, from the transformational valleys line electrification; Metro programs in South Wales, Swansea Bay and North Wales, as well as a significant list of station enhancement and upgrades right across the Wales and Borders,” Jones said. “GCRE can assist in the delivery of these major projects through greater assurance of the innovations and ideas being deployed.”

He continued, “Both of our organizations have shared ambitions to decarbonize the railway. With GCRE set to become the UK’s first net zero railway in operation, working together with TfW we can make a tangible difference to the national effort needed to tackle the climate crisis.

“Following on from the recently announced Hitachi deal, this partnership shows that GCRE is taking the next step in its journey. Not simply constructing an internationally significant facility but also signing up important and significant clients to take testing and research time when we open - showing both the quality of our services we are offering as well as the commercial strength of the business,” Jones concluded.

Chief executive of TfW, James Price said, “The rail industry in Wales is currently going through a major transformation with the South Wales Metro being built and the introduction of brand-new trains throughout the network. I’m pleased this agreement continues our close working relationship with GCRE. Having these world class facilities in Wales is a key enabler for the industry as a whole and for TfW in delivering our ambitious plans.”

GCRE was established in 2021 with an initial commitment of £50m from the Welsh Government. The UK Government is supporting the project with funding for research and development along with capital funding of £20m. GCRE Limited is currently undertaking a major public procurement to attract £330m of private investment into the company.