The recent announcement by KiwiRail that the Northern Explorer and Coastal Pacific services will be replaced with multi-day experiences from July 2022 has been greeted by concern from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).
The proposal, dubbed “Project Restart ‘22” would mean the end of regular passenger service on both the Auckland to Wellington and Picton to Christchurch and marks just the latest stage in the decline of what was once an extensive passenger rail service which serviced most of New Zealand.
The absence of a passenger rail service is especially noticeable during holiday times such as the Christmas/New Year period when holiday makers wanting to get around the country need to endure hours stuck in holiday traffic – whether it be trying to get to the airport (and then queuing up at security and having their papers checked) or stuck in the many infamous traffic bottlenecks on the State Highway system.
The CBT acknowledges there is a market for multi-day experiences. Such rail cruises are particularly popular in North America and have also been implemented in Australia. However, these should be used as complementary to regular passenger service and not as a substitute.
The CBT urges the government to consider a funding package that would enable the continuation of both the Northern Explorer and Coastal Pacific services as daily passenger services able to be used by passengers to get around the various towns and cities along the Auckland to Wellington and Picton to Christchurch corridors.