March 18 - Plans to return train vehicles involved in an
asbestos scare to the tracks will be discussed at a two-day
meeting between railworkers' union officials and KiwiRail in
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) said information
showing plans were being made to return the locomotives to
service was premature. It is meeting KiwiRail today and
tomorrow to discuss results of a second round of asbestos
testing in 40 chinese-made locomotives.
The locomotives were pulled from service at the end of last
month following the discovery of the potentially deadly
material in a soundproofing compound inside one of the
KiwiRail said seven of the 204 testing samples showed "a very
small presence of non-respirable asbestos" in five operable
Asbestos was not detected in the remaining 34 locomotives
operating the the fleet.
The material can be harmful when fibres become airborne.
Wayne Butson, RMTU general secretary, said a variation in
results between the first and second round of testing was
"One of the locomotives returned a positive result for loose
asbestos fibres. The presence of loose fibres is of huge
concern to us, as it is loose fibres that have the potential
to be respirable."
"The first round of test results turned up negative for
airborne asbestos fibres or asbestos dust. Now, the second
ones are showing presence of asbestos in some locomotives. We
need to see a comparison between the first and second round
of testing for each locomotive, in order to understand why
some have gone from negative to positive."
Finding out when fibres from asbestos in the vehicles were
likely to become airborne was also important, Mr Butson said.
"Testing for this must be done proactively, rather than
reactive testing that identifies a danger after our members
have already operated or repaired the locomotives."
KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said the company was
working with expert advisers and WorkSafe to determine a
"safe re-entry into operation" for the vehicles.
"We have repeatedly said no locomotive will operate until we
are completely satisfied it poses no risk to our people."