THOUSANDS OF railway sleepers may have to be imported from the US to help the huge programme of foot and mouth incineration in Cumbria.
Carillion, which is contracted to source materials for the pyres used to destroy infected carcasses across the region, is considering the move as the sleepers form the base of the pyres.
The demand for sleepers far outweighs UK supply. All are reduced to ashes during burning and there is concern that any shortage may lead to delays in the critical disposal process.
Efficient pyres cannot be built without the sleepers, as they lift the carcasses above ground level to aid oxygen movement.
'We have 20,000 in stockpile, ' said Carillion project manager Phil Callard in Cumbria, 'But we are considering importing 100,000 from the US.'
The sleepers, cheaper in the US than in Europe, would have to be brought in to the UK by ship across the Atlantic to Liverpool and then carried by rail to Carlisle, taking three weeks.
Carillion is also working with the Royal Engineers to design a better incineration system using reusable steel supports to build the pyres and support carcasses and combustible materials