The New Zealand rail operator has been carrying out urgent testing on the DL locomotives after the Chinese manufacturer, Dalian Locomotive and Rolling stock Co., confirmed the soundproofing compound used in the locomotives includes a small proportion of asbestos.
This was prompted after routine testing of a paint sample indicated the possible presence of asbestos, despite KiwiRail’s contractual specification that no asbestos be used in the design and manufacture of the locomotives.
Additional assurances had been sought by KiwiRail and given last year, following reports of asbestos in Chinese manufactured locomotives in Australia.
Rail Express reported in January that two locomotives imported by Bradken in Australia and made by Chinese manufacturer CSR Ziyang were found to contain asbestos.
The Bradken locomotives are of the same design as the fleet of 10 CSR class locomotives supplied last year to SCT Logistics subsidiary Specialised Bulk Rail (SBR), in which similar asbestos contamination was discovered in October 2013.
KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said analysis carried out on a single locomotive on Friday confirmed that the asbestos is contained and does not constitute a risk to health.
The compound – a solid resin – contains 5% chrysotile (white asbestos) and is not exposed, but either coated with paint or sealed beneath panelling.
Asbestos only poses a risk to health when fibres are airborne.
“We are clearly very disappointed with this situation and working closely with the manufacturer to understand how this could have possible occurred,” Reidy said.
“They have taken full responsibility for this and have undertaken to do whatever is necessary to rectify the situation as quickly as possible for us.”
KiwiRail is currently considering the results of the testing. Samples were taken from locomotives in Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Tauranga and Palmerston North.
All affected staff have been informed.
Australia bans the importation of any products containing asbestos. New Zealand reportedly prohibits only raw asbestos.