Asbestos in KiwiRail engines

Kiwi Rail bought 40 new DL locomotives (engines) from China last year. The contract said that no asbestos was to be used. However, in the last few weeks, asbestos has appeared in the sound-proofing material sprayed on the locomotives. It was also used in the packing material in doors on locomotives.

The locomotives are being tested to make sure that there is no asbestos in the air which could get into people’s lungs. Drivers are worried about their health.

Meanwhile KiwiRail is not using those 40 locomotives. It is using smaller ones and reducing the freight it carries. So farmers and businesses wanting to transport products to markets are losing money. KiwiRail is losing $3 to $4 million a week and the New Zealand economy is losing money.

However, today, KiwiRail said that only 7 out of 204 test samples showed any asbestos and that was only a very small amount. They will remove the packing material and the trains will be working again very soon.

When China was given the contract to build these locomotives in 2012, KiwiRail sold part of the Dunedin railway workshops and closed down the rest. 90 people lost their jobs. KiwiRail said that Dunedin did not have the machinery to build big locomotives like these.


  • contract – written agreement
  • asbestos – a mineral used in building in NZ until the mid 1980s; it was used for insulation and fire-proofing
  • sound-proofing – to help stop the noise; compare water-proof, wind-proof, fire-proof
  • packing material – used inside the doors
  • freight – cargo, goods carried by some kind of transport
  • workshops – factory

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