South Wales set for new £15m rail innovation centre

Three UK universities have won £15m in funding to create a new Centre of Excellence for Railway Testing, Validation and Customer Experience in South Wales.


Set to be part of the wider Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) in Onllwyn, the new facility will support railway innovation, research and development, with UK academics working alongside railway industry experts. The project will be led by the University of Birmingham, supported by Cardiff and Swansea Universities. Birmingham is already home to BCRRE (Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education), claimed to be Europe’s largest specialist railway innovation centre. The university will now aim to share its expertise with its South Wales counterparts as it helps build out the capabilities at GCRE.

“With this new funding our aim is to have the capabilities and tools to enable innovations to progress from a great idea more effectively to a commercial solution by reducing the cost and risk of projects through the development process,” said Professor Clive Roberts, BCRRE director.

“Our focus on railway testing and validation is targeted at the whole innovation process with real-world impact at the forefront of our offering.”

GCRE will be home to two 25KV electrified test loops - one a 6.9km high speed rolling stock track with a maximum speed of around 177km/h and the other a 4km 65km/h infrastructure test track. Other facilities at the South Wales site will include a dual-platform test environment, rolling stock warm storage and maintenance facilities, operations room, staff accommodation and connections to the main line. Industry partners for GCRE include: Siemens, Atkins, Unipart, RSSB, GCRE, Knorr Bremse, Aegis, Angel Trains, Eversholt Rail, Furrer+Frey, Razor Secure, SLC Rail, EnServe, TRL, BBA, Vanguard, MoniRail and EneRail. The centre is set to open in 2025.

The £15m for the Centre of Excellence for Railway Testing, Validation and Customer Experience is part of a wider commitment from the rail industry to co-invest £60m, with a further £16m being invested by the University of Birmingham. It’s claimed that the total package represents a £106m boost for UK rail R&D.

“This investment is a vote of confidence in research and innovation in South Wales and will help secure the future development of the rail industry right across the UK,” said Robert Cook, RIA Wales & Western lead.

“The funding and the partnership between these three universities is good news for RIA members and the supply sector, and will help the governments in Cardiff and Westminster to build a more effective integrated public transport network.”