All of KiwiRail’s scenic services will return this summer, and the operator will add the Northern Explorer to its range of services.
To meet the demand for domestic rail touring KiwiRail is looking to expand its scenic fleet for charter services.
KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said that the state-owned enterprise has been investing in upgrading the rollingstock used on the scenic routes during the COVID-19 lockdown period when all scenic trains stopped running.
“We had to carry out maintenance work on the carriages we use, and that work was delayed by the COVID lockdown. We prioritised the TranzAlpine, which runs between Christchurch and Greymouth, so it was the first service to resume,” said Miller.
Miller outlined that KiwiRail was expecting to make significant investment in its tourist trains, including in rollingstock.
“Pre-COVID, rail touring was enjoying a resurgence throughout the world and, with the support of a promised $80 million of government funding, KiwiRail was planning an ambitious upgrade of its scenic fleet and services,” he said.
“The indefinite closure of New Zealand’s borders to international tourists, and the re-purposing by the government of some of the proposed funding means that, for now, we are hibernating some of those plans and instead concentrating on designing viable timetables and services for the domestic market.”
KiwiRail ran the TranzAlpine service from Christchurch to Greymouth during the winter school holidays and will resume the service in September. The Coastal Pacific from Christchurch to Picton and the newly instituted Northern Explorer between Auckland and Wellington will begin running in the spring.
“In addition to these scheduled services, we are looking to expand our fleet to offer enhanced charter services throughout the year,” said Miller.
As part of the New Zealand government’s significant investment in rail, KiwiRail will acquire new rollingstock for its scenic services. A request for proposals was released to the market last September, however now suitable bids were received. KiwiRail is also in the process of acquiring new mainline locomotives.
“It looks like all New Zealanders will be holidaying at home this summer and as people plan their breaks, we urge them to demonstrate their support for environmentally friendly travel and choose to sit back and connect with the landscape on their national rail network,” said Miller.