Asbestos risk in New Zealand trains 'minimal'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
1 April 2014

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1 April 2014 | Will Green

KiwiRail in New Zealand has said the health risk is "minimal" following testing of 40 new Chinese-built trains that were found to contain asbestos.

The organisation said seven out of 204 samples showed a “very small presence of non-respirable asbestos in five operable locomotives”, while the other 34 trains in service contained no asbestos dust. Traces of asbestos were also found in the remaining locomotive, which is not currently in service.

Full tests began after routine testing of a paint sample indicated the presence of asbestos and 40 trains were pulled from service.

The DL locomotives were built and supplied by China-based Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company Ltd, and “white asbestos” had been found in a soundproofing compound and packing material in the doors, in breach of the contract specification, said KiwiRail.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said: “With the majority of the locomotives showing minimal risk for exposure to airborne fibres, we are confident that appropriate measures can be put in place that will enable us to progressively bring these locomotives back into service soon.

“We have repeatedly said no locomotive will operate until we are completely satisfied it poses no risk to our people.”

KiwiRail said an “operational plan” was being drawn up, including a comprehensive set of risk management measures for safe operation, ongoing mitigation and eventual removal of all asbestos containing materials.

Reidy said the reduced rail capacity was causing “supply chain issues for many New Zealand industries and businesses”.

“The DL locomotives are the workhorse of our fleet and without their pulling power all customers are feeling the lack of capacity,” he said. 


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