TranzAlpine to resume next month  

KiwiRail is delighted to announce the return of its acclaimed TranzAlpine train service between Christchurch and Greymouth.

“I’m excited to be able to say that this award-winning train, which last ran on March 22 before the lockdown, will be back from July 4,” KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller says.

 “We will resume with a weekend and school holiday timetable in July and August as KiwiRail continues to assess demand in a difficult season for tourism, with borders still closed to international visitors.

 “We’re conscious of how important this service is to the West Coast economy and we’re looking forward to bringing visitors to the Coast again, allowing them to see the snow-capped Southern Alps along the way.

“This will be an ideal time for New Zealand families to try something new, and together experience what Lonely Planet has described as one of the world’s 10 most amazing rail journeys.”

 During July and August, the TranzAlpine will run on weekends, departing Christchurch at 8.15am, and spending an hour in Greymouth before leaving at 2.05pm on Saturdays and Sundays. It will also run every day of the school holidays, July 6-17 inclusive, on the same timetable as weekends. KiwiRail hopes this will be an opportunity for families to share this unique experience. All fares will be changeable, fully refundable and available at the winter special rate of $75 per seat one way.

 Opening the TranzAlpine is KiwiRail’s priority for its scenic train services which, on average, have more overseas than domestic customers.  The company also operates the Coastal Pacific train between Picton and Christchurch, which does not run during winter, and the Northern Explorer between Auckland and Wellington which is not currently considered financially viable. No decisions have yet been made on the return of the Northern Explorer and Coastal Pacific.  KiwiRail also runs a commuter rail service between Palmerston North and Wellington, which resumed in late April.

 “Covid-19 has taken a heavy toll on tourism everywhere and unfortunately, like other tourism providers, KiwiRail and the communities we serve have suffered the impact,” says Mr Miller.

“We have utilised this downtime to look at exciting opportunities and options, including offering different classes of service onboard the TranzAlpine, beginning this spring.  We are confident we can serve the market at different levels with an enhanced service for those who want something extra, while still ensuring more accessible fares are also on offer.”

 The booking system at www.greatjourneysofnz.co.nz/tranzalpine/ is open now for TranzAlpine bookings in July and August, and bookings will open shortly for September and beyond. KiwiRail will be contacting those people who have bookings on services that have been cancelled. Those people already booked on the Northern Explorer – which has very light advanced bookings - will be given a 100 per cent refund or, if they prefer, a letter of credit.  People booked on the TranzAlpine on days when it will not now run can choose to be rebooked, or receive either a 100 per cent refund, or a letter of credit for a future booking.

In addition, anyone with an existing booking on the TranzAlpine for one of the winter weekends or the July school holidays will receive a refund of the difference between the higher fare they paid, and the new winter special rate of $75 per seat. For example, if you have already paid $150 for a ticket on the TranzAlpine, we’ll either refund you the $75 difference, or give you a voucher for $75 to spend onboard, or you could use the difference to buy another ticket for a friend or family member. 

 “We know that our customers all look forward to their trips with us, just as we look forward to serving them.  We apologise to affected customers for any inconvenience as we urgently consider how to make long-distance train journeys more attractive, more diverse and more financially sustainable.

 “Our Interislander ferries and scenic trains play a significant role in New Zealand’s tourism sector but 2020 has turned out to be difficult for all operators. We are focussed on our return, and on better days ahead.

 “We’re working hard on options and opportunities, are looking forward to making further announcements. In the meantime, we will welcome families and holidaymakers aboard the TranzAlpine from Saturday, July 4.”