Action being taken to address sleeper decay

01 August 2012 4:04PM

Chief Executive Jim Quinn said today that KiwiRail have discovered that some imported wooden sleepers are showing signs of premature decay.

“Subsequent inspections on around 100,000 imported sleepers from one supplier found that around 7,000 (7%) were showing signs of premature decay. This ranged from showing a suspected early presence of the decay through to more advanced signs.”

“Safety is KiwiRail’s first priority and that is why we have taken action to test, inspect and replace the sleepers.”

“We have taken appropriate steps to manage the problem and ensure the safety of staff and commuters, we simply would not run services if we suspected the network was not safe.”

“Derailments have actually decreased and in the 2010-11 year reached an all-time low, reducing by 41% on the previous year.”

“Wooden sleepers are required to be compliant with the Australian standard which specifies they must last for at least 15 years, however some are showing decay much sooner.  We believe decay was present in the timber on arrival in New Zealand and in any event the timber supplied is clearly not compliant with the Australian standard as it is not lasting as long as it should.”

“The dispute between us and the supplier is the subject of court action.  In the meantime we have put in place extra inspections to monitor decay rates and are undertaking a replacement as required.”

Notes to reporters:

There are approximately 6 million sleepers on the network in total, the 100,000 imported sleepers are 1.7% of this and the 7,000 of these showing decay are 0.12% of the total sleeper number.


Media Contact: Candice Johanson, Senior Communications Advisor, 021 804 906