RUSSIA: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin officially launched production of wagons at the Tikhvin Railway Car Building Plant in Leningrad oblast on January 30.

Industrial investment business ICT Group has designed the TVSZ factory around the latest production processes from the automotive, aerospace and rail sectors.

According to ICT, it is the first Russian factory for half a century to combine foundry production and vehicle assembly on a single site. This is expected to offer flexibility and productivity rates 'several times' in excess of established domestic wagon plants, with TVSZ able to produce a wheelset every 4½ min and complete a wagon every 24 min.

TVSZ currently employs 1 500 people, and this could grow to 4 500, with annual production reaching 13 000 wagons, 65 000 wheelsets and 90 000 tonnes of castings.

Automated equipment and robots from Danobat, Eisenmann, KUKA Systems, Heinrich Wagner Sinto and Siemens-VAI are similar to equipment used by Volkswagen, General Motors, BMW, Ford and Airbus, while ICT says the only comparable casting machinery is used by Daimler. Resource planning is adapted from systems used by Boeing.

ICT expects wagons from TVSZ to be 50% cheaper to maintain than established Russian designs, and more track friendly thanks to the development of a Standard Car Truck (now Wabtec) Barber bogie for the 1520 market.

Investment in the plant has totalled 36bn roubles, plus 6bn roubles for employee housing, with ICT being supported by state development institutes Vnesheconombank and Eurasian Development Bank.