KiwiRail’s full range of scenic services will be back shortly, again giving New Zealanders access to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
“We’re pleased to announce the Northern Explorer and Coastal Pacific services will be running from late spring,” KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller says.
“All the signs indicate that New Zealanders will be taking their summer breaks at home this year and our services offer Kiwis a unique way to see their own country.
The Northern Explorer will re-commence its normal weekly timetable on Wednesday, September 30, leaving Wellington on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and leaving Auckland on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The Coastal Pacific will re-start on Tuesday, October 13, running between Christchurch and Picton and returning the same day, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Once the country returns to COVID-19 Alert Level One, the TranzAlpine will resume its current schedule, running return trips on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays between Christchurch and Greymouth.
“All the re-start dates are subject to New Zealand being in Covid Alert Level One. This is because the reduction in passenger numbers that is required to meet social distancing at Level 2, 3, and 4 makes the services no longer viable,” says Greg.
The uncertainty wrought by the COVID situation continues to make life difficult for travelers and tourism operators. Because of this, where there is a cancellation directly as a result of COVID restrictions, KiwiRail will offer its affected customers a transfer to an alternative date, a credit for 12 months, or a full refund, regardless of the type of fare purchased.
Bookings for the three Scenic train services will open in mid-September.
While on-board staff are looking forward to welcoming customers back, Greg says KiwiRail is also undertaking preliminary discussions with local authorities along the main trunk line between Auckland and Wellington to see whether a regional rail service, offering more stops than the Northern Explorer, might be supported.
“We’re aware that many towns and regions would like to have a passenger train serve their area and our initial engagement with stakeholders has been positive.
“We also know that New Zealanders are increasingly interested in reducing their carbon footprint when they travel, and rail offers that opportunity.
“We’ll work with local councils to come up with a proposition that offers more New Zealanders the chance to choose rail to get around the country.
“There is enthusiasm for the coming Hamilton-Auckland passenger rail service and KiwiRail is keen to partner with others to explore further opportunities.”