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Premium service launched on South Island trains

Passengers travelling on the TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific in the South Island are being offered a new way to experience train travel as The Great Journeys of New Zealand, owned and operated by KiwiRail, rolls out an enhanced onboard service.

"Scenic Plus – an option available at a higher ticket price than the familiar Scenic class – offers regional delicacies, and local commentary, delivered straight to guests' seats as they sit back and enjoy the spectacular views," KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller says.

"With the focus for the coming holiday season being strongly on New Zealanders travelling through their own country, we're taking our acclaimed train journeys to the next level by offering a taste of the regions.

"Guests will be able to savour the flavours of a carefully curated menu inspired by the journey."

Food from local producers will be on offer, including Canterbury grass-fed roast lamb loin for guests on the TranzAlpine – which travels between Christchurch and Greymouth – and Marlborough salmon and Kaikoura crayfish on the Coastal Pacific – which travels between Christchurch and Picton.

Scenic Plus will showcase the Southern regions and all they have to offer as destinations for people to visit, in turn boosting regional tourism.

"This year has been difficult for tourism operators and for the businesses and communities who rely for their income on visitors. KiwiRail is delighted to announce that with the South Island returning to COVID-19 Alert Level 1, our long-distance trains are not just back, but will soon offer an enhanced level of service for those whose holiday budgets cater for extras.

"At the heart of our South Island journeys, regardless of which class of ticket is purchased, are still our world-class carriages with large panoramic windows and skylights through which to enjoy New Zealand's most spectacular landscapes.

"This is just the beginning of a transformation of scenic train travel over the coming years."

Bookings are now open for all three scenic train services including the Northern Explorer, which runs between Auckland and Wellington. Plans are underway to launch Scenic Plus on the Northern Explorer in due course.

The TranzAlpine is returning to schedule, running return trips on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays between Christchurch and Greymouth.

The Coastal Pacific will resume on Tuesday, October 13, running between Christchurch and Picton and returning the same day, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"The Northern Explorer will not be resuming until all the North Island is at Alert Level 1. This is because the Level 2 measures required to keep our passengers and staff safe while travelling significantly impact the service.

"In order to maintain physical distancing on Northern Explorer, passengers would need to remain in their seats and would miss out on the viewing carriage and café. Passengers would also be required to wear a mask on the 11-hour journey.

"In addition, the reduction in passenger numbers that is required to meet social distancing at Level 2 makes the service unviable.

"Passenger comfort, as well as safety, is important to us and we look forward to welcoming back travellers on the Northern Explorer for the full experience once Auckland is also again at Level 1."

Scenic Plus is now available to book for TranzAlpine for journeys departing October 16 and Coastal Pacific for journeys departing October 20. Initially one carriage will be dedicated to Scenic Plus on each train service.

The familiar Scenic Class experience is still available with a range of fresh food and beverages available from the café car.

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