Thrall makes tracks for UK wagon market

THRALL Car, one of the largest manufacturers of rail freight wagons in the US, is to enter the UK market to exploit opportunities opened up by the Channel tunnel. The privately owned company is seeking partners to build freight trains to Thrall's design for sale or lease to railway companies across Europe.

Thrall said the venture could create 250 jobs in the UK. The company is looking at several sites and is talking to potential allies both in the industry and in the financial community.

Shaun Richmond, vice president, said: 'The main craft used in building freight wagons is welding. We are looking for skilled welders with associated supervisory, maintenance, purchasing and administrative staff.' He would not disclose Thrall's planned investment in the UK. He said more detailed plans would be announced in the autumn, with a view to starting production next year.

The first project will be the EuroSpine Wagon, which 'piggybacks' entire truck bodies to take them off the road for the longest parts of their journeys. In the US last year more than seven million trailers and containers were moved by rail rather than by truck.

The Piggyback Consortium, an alliance of local authorities and freight companies, recently said that for an investment of pounds 45m ( pounds 31m) the UK's railways could be modified to create a path for piggyback vehicles from Scotland through the North-west and Midlands to London and the Channel tunnel. It estimated that this would take up to 400,000 vehicles off the roads.

Thrall, owned by the Duchossis family and based in Chicago Heights, Illinois, produces about 10,000 freight vehicles a year.

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