Australia big part of global Unipart plans


Unipart Group Australia is on a mission. A mission to bring about safety and productivity efficiencies and improvements with the use of innovative rail construction and maintenance equipment from McCulloch Group. 

Matthew Lloyd is the director of McCulloch Business Development at Unipart Group Australia Pty Ltd. Unipart Group is the global distributor and manufacturer for McCulloch, an entity formed around three decades ago, whilst McCulloch Group has been supplying products and services into the construction market across the United Kingdom for the past 25 years, and most recently has sought out a partner to expand globally. 

“We see Australasia as a significant growth market with the existing products that we have,” Lloyd said. 

“The core products already held in stock within Australia are the TRTs (Trac Rail Transposers) and the McCulloch Panel Lifters, with other products coming into the market late 2021/early 2022.” 

Some of the key McCulloch products are: 

TRT: The TRT is a remote controlled, rubber tracked machine suitable for use on rail infrastructure, underground track and light rail networks. The rubber tracks mean versatility with no conversion required for operation on different track gauges as experienced across Australia. The TRT is 2.3 metres long, 1.8 metres in width, 1.6 metres in height and weighs less than 1.4T making it a compact and easily transportable unit allowing for rapid deployment and operation in limited access locations, such as live OHW environments. A pair of TRTs can be used to move any length of rail up to 220m long and transport, remove and install associated iron work such as switches and crossings. The TRT has been in operation in Australia since early 2020 with numerous sales throughout 2021, making it the most popular product in the McCulloch product range. 

Panel Lifter: The Panel Lifter system revolutionises the method of removing, moving and installing rail panels swiftly and safely with greater efficiency in comparison to all other methods. The Panel Lifters are remote control operated in pairs with a combined lifting capacity of 18T, or approximately 25m concrete sleeper track panel.  Panel Lifter machines can also be operated in multiples to allow removal and installation of longer length track panels. 

TCTThe TCT (Trac Cable Transporter) is a recent development which aims to transform the way large cable runs are deployed and cable laid within the railway Infrastructure. The TCT allows large lengths of cable to be laid safely and efficiently compared to traditional methods. The TCT can work with various types and sizes of cable drums up to 2000kg in weight and 1700mm in diameter. 

FLASS: The FLASS (Fine Line and Sleeper Spacer) is a beam accessory to the Panel Lifter and enables the accurate movement, alignment and spacing of up to fifteen sleepers per lift. Due to the unique operation of the two-lift beam, the need for handling, barring, spacing or fine lining is eliminated. 

MMPV: The McCulloch Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MMPV) is a self-mounting, self-propelled, self-loading platform which can be used for various tasks and adapted to suit the customers’ requirements.  With a load capacity of 40T, the versatility of this machine enables much of the preparation work to be undertaken away from the line and provides a flexible self-propelled platform to power and deploy any number of equipment modules and materials.

Background and opportunities

Unipart Group is a global business with an annual turnover of approximately £800 million (AU$1.5 billion) that brings together manufacturing, logistics and consultancy in a set of products and services that create imaginative solutions for customers. Unipart Rail was acquired by Unipart Group as part of the privatisation of British Rail in 1997.

Lloyd said the challenges these products had helped overcome in the United Kingdom were faced by industries across the globe, opening expansion opportunities.

“We have products already in operation in Australasia,” he said. 

“The pandemic has undoubtedly affected demand across the rail sector, but with the McCulloch range – and its huge benefits – we are seeing increasing interest in these machines, and there are a lot of rail businesses out there whose projects can benefit from the use of the products.” 

Safety a key factor 

“From the safety perspective, our products are remote controlled. You can keep your key operators and personnel out of the line of fire,” Lloyd said. 

“The TRTs now come with halo exclusion zone lighting installed. Four lights, one on either side of the bonnet, project a halo or a ring around the machine so you have a visible exclusion zone to keep workers out of danger.” 

Outside of the UK, McCulloch Panel Lifters have already been deployed in Canada, New Zealand and Malaysia, while TRTs are in use in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Malaysia.  In Australia, the TRTs are primarily used in Victoria and Western Australia, with recent sales also secured in New South Wales. 

Lloyd said they would be spreading their message with promotional activities at key events such as the AusRAIL conference in Brisbane in February. 

“We will be exhibiting at AusRAIL 2021, which will provide us with a tremendous opportunity to engage with existing and new customers who will be able to see and touch our products in person,” he said. 

Lloyd said new versions of existing products were set to make a difference. 

“There are the large metro projects that we now see in the Australian environment,” he said. 

“We have recently developed the new TRT-e, a zero emissions version of the standard TRT. This first-of-its-kind solution uses an electric motor and battery power pack instead of the traditional diesel engine and is run via an electronic control system with remote condition monitoring enabling it to be worked more extensively on the rail infrastructure where diesel emissions and noise pollution are a major issue.  This is achieved without compromising on the duty cycle and performance of the existing diesel version. 

“Whilst the existing diesel powered TRT is already a relatively low emission machine, producing only 80kg of CO2 in a typical operating shift, the TRT-e eliminates this altogether, equating to an annual saving of 650,000kg of CO2 within McCulloch’s existing UK operations. Noise pollution is also substantially reduced. 

“We want to really ensure the Australian market knows about these products as they strive to be better in the environmental space. 

“Outside of Australia, there is significant impetus in North America. We have got teams in Canada and the US supporting sales and doing demonstrations and we believe there is tremendous potential to build on the successful sales achieved already.” 

Lloyd noted examples from Australia.

“We have recently worked with a customer who was experiencing challenges with the volume of work during weekend possessions and shortfalls of skilled operators. Our products now provide the opportunity to start using equipment on midweek nights when access wouldn’t ordinarily be planned,” he said.

“Our products are agile. They are easy to deploy. If you are working in a metro environment, you can work in situations where there are live overheads with appropriate controls in place. 

“They offer opportunities to mechanise activities where often manual activities might otherwise be necessary, and vastly reduce or eliminate the safety risk to track workers.”


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