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Laboratory testing of samples taken by an independent tester indicates that no airborne asbestos fibres or asbestos dust has been found to be present in 33 of the 40 Chinese built KiwiRail DL locomotives.
Chief Executive Peter Reidy says results from the rigorous testing show no immediate risk to health, and the report contained recommendations outlining a process for managing and removing the asbestos containing material.
“This is positive news. Our immediate priority is staff safety, and this vindicates our joint decision to withdraw the locomotives from service until we had a clear pathway for moving forwards.
“We shared the test results with Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) representatives and assured them we will not return the locomotives to service until we are completely satisfied they are safe for our staff to use,” said Mr Reidy. “To this end, just to be absolutely certain, we have jointly agreed to a further round of swab testing of the DL locomotives to be conducted next week.”
“We are pleased to say that the union has agreed to work closely with us with a view to a managed reintroduction of these locomotives back into service in an assuredly safe way in accordance with independent and professional advice.”
Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson said that the union’s primary concern is the safety of rail staff, and until it is absolutely certain the locomotives were safe, they must remain out of service.
“The locomotives must not be used while there is any friable material in them. The results of the second opinion will confirm how we proceed with the reintroduction of the locomotives.”
“Due to their possible degradation, returning the first generation locomotives to service right now isn’t an option, until all degraded material is removed.”
“Subject to the second test results then planning for returning the second generation locomotives to service could proceed.”
KiwiRail management has begun work on a full risk assessment and possible operating plan for the phased re-introduction of any locomotives deemed safe to operate, subject to results and recommendations from the second round of testing.
It is expected that the later Gen 2 DL locomotives that arrived in the country last year are the most likely to be able to return to service.
KiwiRail is s also liaising with Worksafe and its regulator, the NZ Transport Agency.
The 40 DL locomotives were withdrawn from service last Friday and testing arranged following confirmation from the Chinese manufacturers that a sound proofing compound used in the engine bay and surrounding the cabs of the locomotives contained asbestos.
During the testing process a second material, used as a packing material in the engine bay doors of the locomotives, raised concerns, and has now been confirmed to also contain asbestos.
It has been recommended that the packing material be removed from all of the 40 locomotives before any DL locomotives are returned to service and that process is already underway, Mr Reidy says.
Planning is also underway for the removal of the soundproofing material from the engine bay and cabs of the locomotives.
“We have been advised by the independent tester that the asbestos is bonded within the soundproofing material, and presents no risk to health unless it is degraded following exposure to intense heat. Any locomotive that shows this degradation will not return to service until the degraded material is removed.”
KiwiRail is working with the Chinese manufacturers over the full removal of the soundproofing compound over the short to medium term.
The manufacturers have accepted the asbestos was included in breach of contract specifications and would carry out necessary rectification.
Jointly issued by KiwiRail and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union.
KiwiRail Media Contact: Senior Communications Advisor Jenni Austin, 021961495
RMTU Media Contact: General Secretary Wayne Butson, 0274962461
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