KiwiRail’s DL locomotives returning to service after asbestos checks

Media release from KiwiRail and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union.
The first of KiwiRail’s DL locomotives returned to service today, with more to be re-introduced over the coming weeks.

The reintroduction follows confirmation by WorkSafe New Zealand that the robust set of operating and management procedures developed by KiwiRail and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union took all practicable steps to managing the work-related hazards.

KiwiRail Chief executive Peter Reidy says the business was pleased to have reached this position.

“This means we can begin re-introducing selected DL locomotives with every confidence that we have taken all possible steps to manage any risk to our people. And that in turn means we can begin restoring the service levels that our customers rely on us for”.

The 40 DL locomotives were withdrawn from service on February 28th after confirmed asbestos containing materials were used.

“We made it clear from the start that no DL locomotive would re-enter service until we are completely satisfied the appropriate measures are in place to ensure our people are safe,” Mr Reidy says.

“That has meant operating with a reduced train plan for the past month, which has impacted on businesses and supply chains around the country. We can now begin returning to full capacity and service levels.”

The first priority will be to stabilise the existing reduced train plan, before reintroducing suspended services and increasing capacity on route where this had been reduced, he said. Rail services to Northland are expected to resume on April 14th.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson said that a cautious approach was absolutely the right one.

“It is good that there have been no positive cab test results so far. But our members know that where there is asbestos present in locomotives, risk still remains, and so a very careful process for eliminating the risk to rail staff was needed,” he said.

“Our members told us emphatically that the locomotives needed to be laid up until we were satisfied that the risk had been properly addressed.”

“But they also told us that they were worried about the company’s freight customers, and their work mates’ job security, in particular in areas such as Northland which has had freight temporarily suspended.”

“On this basis we have worked with KiwiRail to put as robust a process as possible in place for the testing of locomotives before they head to service.”

“I commend our team of union delegates involved in the discussions who were tireless in achieving the least risk and maximum protection for operating and maintenance services.”

The plan will see the newer Generation II locomotives progressively reintroduced to service over the next two to three weeks. This follows the replacement of locomotive car body doors, the cleaning and sanitising of the locomotives and the satisfactory completion of a final set of air and swab sample tests.

Remaining asbestos containing materials in the locomotives will be removed within 12 months, and appropriate management procedures and controls will remain in place during his period. The older Generation I locomotives, will not be returned to service until all known ACM are removed.

This rectification will be carried out over the next six months which will enable them to be available for spring peak season demand.

Media release from Rail and Maritime Transport Union
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union says the full cost to New Zealand Inc of the decision to have our trains built overseas must not be swept under the carpet. If KiwiRail’s locomotives were built locally the problem of asbestos would never have arisen, Rail & Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson said.

“We have seen 40 DL locomotives come out of service, causing disruption for KiwiRail’s freight customers and incurring considerable expense for our rail SOE.”

“It’s important we don’t gloss over the full impact of National’s decision to abandon our local rail manufacturing workforce and industry and opt for the cheapest possible price for these locomotives, the Auckland EMUs and the flat top wagons, all of which could have had varying levels of assembly or manufacture here in New Zealand.”

“As we knew at the time, and as the BERL report confirmed in relation to the Electric Multiple Units, you cannot simply compare the initial purchase price. KiwiRail will inevitably have whole-of-life cost blowouts if it continues to take a short term procurement approach solely focused on the cheapest products available.”

“Value is not just upfront costs. It is also about ongoing repairs and maintenance work, as we are seeing right now, not to mention all the primary and secondary jobs that are created and industries supported when goods are manufactured locally.”

“Who is going to be held accountable for these trains being supplied with asbestos in them? All this extra expense, inconvenience for customers, and the potential safety risk that existed for workers, can be traced back to the decision not to build these trains locally.”

“I look forward to John Key’s response on this matter,” Wayne Butson said.

 

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