Danger in old rail sleepers, says MP

By Kiri Gillespie

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An internal document urging KiwiRail workers not to stand on rail bridges or railway sleepers marked for replacement raises further concerns about the state of the country's rail network, New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan says.

Mr Horan said the document was issued to workers after a man fell through a decaying sleeper this month. It warned workers to avoid walking on rail bridges and especially marked sleepers.

However, KiwiRail general manager of infrastructure and engineering Rick van Barneveld said there was no compromise on the safety of its operations.

The release of the document follows an announcement this week that KiwiRail is to shed 158 jobs nationally.

Mr Horan, NZ First's transport spokesman, said further layoffs would only see the rail network deteriorate further.

"How can they possibly consider laying off maintenance workers when there is such extreme deterioration, and dangerously so?" Mr Horan said.

One of the warnings in the document said " ... do not stand or step on any sleeper marked with paint - it is most likely scheduled for replacement".

Mr Horan said it raised serious concerns.

"Here's proof that KiwiRail themselves are concerned, but they are still laying off people ... at a time when they urgently need maintenance done to the lines."

Mr Horan said the "golden triangle" network that involved the Bay of Plenty, including the 6km of rail in the Kaimai Ranges where a speed restriction is currently in place, was in dire need of repair work.

He questioned how this would be done if 158 positions were disestablished.

Mr Horan said KiwiRail was paper shuffling "at the risk of people's lives".

Asked about fears held for the safety of the local rail network, Mr van Barneveld said there would be absolutely no compromise on the safety of operations.

"As per our business plan we've had to rebalance our priorities to our resources.

"The consultation process with staff and unions was specifically designed to further our analysis of the resourcing levels needed to complete our revised work programme for the next three years. That feedback has been taken on board and we have the balance about right."

Mr van Barneveld said KiwiRail had invested significantly in improving the performance of the "golden triangle" line but would not say how many speed restrictions there were.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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