Rail company denies asbestos risk on coal wagons

ASBESTOS-lined, Chinese-built coal wagons pose an insignificant risk to employees and the public in the Hunter Valley, coal train company Pacific National says.

Sadie Davidson

Railway insiders remain concerned.

‘‘They say the asbestos is safe because it’s bonded on wear plates, but wear plates are designed to wear” a railway worker told the Newcastle Herald.

The asbestos is believed to be in about 200 wagons that are thought to have been in service for at least two to three years.

Unions have labelled the import of Chinese coal wagons a false economy, pushing to preserve Australian jobs during a time of fierce competition from the Chinese.

Pacific National said in a statement yesterday: “The asbestos is in a ‘bonded’ or ‘non-friable’ form and, as such, provides negligible exposure risk to employees and the general public”

‘‘Nonetheless, immediate action has been taken to contain the equipment.’’

No maintenance work is planned for the wagons, but a safe handling and removal procedure is being implemented.