A JOINT venture to establish China's largest wheelset overhaul plant was agreed by Lucchini Sidermeccanica and Zhibo Transport Equipment on July 27.

The Italian firm has a 25% stake in Zhibo Lucchini Railway Equipment (Zhiqi), with the 75% majority share in the venture owned by Zhibo, a subsidiary of Shanxi Coal Export & Import Group.

Lucchini Sidermeccanica entered the Chinese market in 2005 with contracts to supply wheelsets to Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens. An agreement signed in August 2006 and running through to 2021 covers the supply of wheelsets for high speed trains, along with related technology transfers.

The Italians will provide technical expertise and staff training for the Zhiqi joint venture, which is to be based at a 45 000 m² plant now under construction at Taiyuan in Shanxi province. Production is expect to begin next spring, with an annual capacity of 30 000 passenger train wheelsets a year.