26 July 2023
From Monday, the Capital Connection will offer passengers a smoother ride between Palmerston North and Wellington, as newly refurbished carriages come into operation.
KiwiRail General Manager Scenic Journeys and Commuter Rail Tracey Goodall says KiwiRail is proud to introduce the new carriages on 31 July, which will continue being used until new hybrid trains arrive by the end of the decade.
“The existing Capital Connection carriages are old and near the end of their workable lives. With Government investment, KiwiRail has been able to fully refurbish some former Auckland Transport carriages, completely replacing and updating the interiors and refurbishing the wheel units.
“We’ve kept the well-recognised blue on blue colour scheme, but that’s where the similarity ends. The new carriages have improved safety features and the wheel units will offer a more comfortable ride.”
“The service will continue to have five passenger carriages, a generator car and a café car – which will now be able to serve barista coffee.
“We’re currently refurbishing more carriages at our Hutt Workshops, and intend to add a sixth passenger carriage to the train later this year. On some days the existing Capital Connection can be at capacity, so an extra carriage will support passenger growth.”
Ms Goodall says, to meet the door heights of the new carriages, KiwiRail has also been working to raise the Palmerston North, Levin, Ōtaki and Shannon station platforms.
“Unfortunately, there has been a delay in carrying out the Shannon platform work. The height difference between the new carriages and the existing platform is a safety risk, so until we can raise the platform level the Capital Connection will not stop at Shannon.
“We are putting on a bus to transport the relatively small number of people who get on and off the train at Shannon through to Levin Station. I apologise for this inconvenience, however we didn’t want to delay launching the new carriages. We expect to have the Shannon work completed in the next few months.”
Horizons Regional Council Chair Rachel Keedwell says the investment from central government reflects its commitment, matched by many other parties, to improve services between Palmerston North and Wellington.
“We are in full support of this upgrade to the Capital Connection, and recognise it is just the first step towards the larger goal of improving passenger rail services for our region – but an important one so we can get there. We are looking forward to the significant benefits yet to come for both passengers due to increased frequency of services, and the environment with the introduction of hybrid trains in a few years.”
Greater Wellington Transport Chair Thomas Nash says the refurbished carriages of the train service, long the standard bearer for reliable inter-regional passenger service, are a welcome temporary introduction.
“While work continues to secure the new hybrid trains, I’m pleased commuters, visitors to the region and locals will be travelling regionally in safer trains and in even greater comfort”.
Refurbishing 11 carriages for the Capital Connection Refurbishment Project is funded by a $26 million dollar investment through the Government’s NZ Upgrade Programme.
The new Capital Connection includes five passenger carriages, a café car and a generator car. A sixth passenger carriage is expected to be added in September.
A Government contribution towards Horizons and Greater Wellington Regional Council investment in new hybrid trains was made through Budget 2023.