KiwiRail rejects union's rotting sleepers claim

Last updated 12:35 26/12/2013

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KiwiRail is rejecting claims that a "safety nightmare" is emerging on New Zealand's tracks because of rotting wood.

The Rail & Maritime Transport Union is calling for KiwiRail to reinspect about 160,000 Peruvian sleepers in the national rail network. It says an inspection of a section of track in the Buller Gorge this month highlighted damage to a significant number of sleepers on a curved track.

Union organiser John Kerr said many Peruvian sleepers were rotting from the inside.

"A piece on a straight bit is low risk, but on a corner it is high risk."

A 10kmh speed restriction was immediately placed on the affected track in the gorge but the equipment used to check sleepers was not working properly.

KiwiRail had agreed to a new checking process but the union wanted all Peruvian sleepers rechecked. It was a "safety nightmare" waiting to happen.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said the sleepers posed no safety risk and the company would never leave "things unsafe".

He said concerns about equipment had been raised so they were looking into it.

They had re-checked sleepers at random with the new process and there was high correlation between those results and the previous ones.

"We never take safety trivially."

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- The Dominion Post

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