BYLINE: Andrzej Harassek reports from Warszawa

ITALIAN steel group Lucchini inaugurated a new wheelset department at its Warszawa steelworks on August 29. The plant was formally opened by the President of the Polish Senate Marek Borowski, who was joined at the ceremonies by Warszawa Mayor Pawel Piskorski, Lucchini’s President Antonino Marullo and Group Managing Director Severo Bocchio.

Dating from 1957, the Huta Lucchini Warszawa operation was acquired by a Lucchini-led joint venture on privatisation in 1992. It is now the largest Polish manufacturer of speciality and high-quality long steel products, specialising in the production of bearing steel. With a capacity of 600000 tonnes per year, Huta LW currently employs around 1600 people, but this is due to fall to 1400 by the end of 2001.

The wheelset department has been built in the 6500 m2 former foundry over the past 18 months, at a cost of 40m zloty. It will eventually employ around 100 people, but initially has only 20 staff. All of these were trained for nine months at the Lucchini wheelset plant in Italy as part of a technology transfer process.

The plant will produce complete wheelsets, including the manufacture and mechanical working of axles using locally-produced steel. Wheels will be manufactured from steel supplied by the Lucchini works in Lovere, Italy. Final assembly of the axles, wheels, disc brakes and bearings will be undertaken in Warszawa, where the bearings will also be assembled.

Huta LW will produce up to 10000 wheelsets per year, with production ramping up to reach this rate by the end of 2002. Most will be supplied to the Polish, Central and Eastern European markets.

On August 24 the company obtained certification from the General Railway Inspectorate for the use of its wheelsets on the Polish rail network.

CAPTION: The Huta LW wheelset plant was officially opened by Senate President Marek Borowski

CAPTION: Ryszard Kasztelnik (left) of Huta LW explains the manufacturing process to Senate President Marek Borowski (middle) and Warszawa Mayor Pawel Piskorski (right)