First rail panel lifter rolls off Unipart’s Coventry line

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The first McCulloch Rail Panel Lifter has been delivered at Unipart’s new production facility in Coventry.


Capable of moving rail track panels up to 90 feet in length and weighing up to 18 tonnes, the panel lifter is a tracked machine that sits astride rail lines, assisting in track laying and maintenance. It can extend its width to a maximum of 3,665mm to lift the heaviest loads and is remotely controlled by an operator.

The technology was originally developed by McCulloch Rail in response to a Network Rail decision to prohibit the use of any road rail vehicle from lifting 60ft concrete track panels. A collaboration between McCulloch and Unipart will see the machines manufactured in Coventry for the first time and then shipped across the globe.

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“The production of the McCulloch Rail Panel Lifters at Unipart Manufacturing’s highly skilled Coventry site is great news for both the city and Unipart,” said Neil Walker, managing director at Unipart Rail and Unipart Manufacturing Group.

panel lifter

“Bringing this under one roof, in partnership with McCulloch, highlights our continued investment in the city and will benefit the rail industry worldwide. Panel Lifters are the safest, fastest and most efficient way of replacing track panels. Through Unipart Rail’s global customer network, the Panel Lifters produced in Coventry will be shipped to customers all over the world.”

Earlier this year, Unipart Rail won funding from the Department for Transport and Innovate UK to develop a ‘TRT-e’, an electric version of the McCulloch Rail TRT (Trac Rail Transposer), in conjunction with Hyperbat, a joint venture between Unipart Manufacturing and Williams Advanced Engineering to develop electric vehicle battery technology. The new production facility is a further extension of Unipart’s relationship with McCulloch Rail and will be located adjacent to the Hyperbat facility at the Coventry site.

panel lifter

“As we scale up our international sales activity, it is critical that the production capacity is matched to meet the market demand,” said Billy McCulloch, engineering director at McCulloch Rail.

“Successfully partnering with Unipart Group was fundamental to our mutual goals – where we can each focus on our core competencies and exploit our respective resources and experience to achieve this."