Coastal Pacific moves to seasonal service

02 April 2013 9:09AM

KiwiRail has today announced that the Coastal Pacific train between Picton and Christchurch will operate as an extended summer service in the seven months between October and April. This seasonal service is expected to be in place while Christchurch rebuilds its tourism infrastructure.

“The Coastal Pacific is losing almost $3 million annually, due in most part to a significant drop in the tourism and domestic travel market to and from Christchurch after the earthquake. These losses are highest through winter,” says KiwiRail’s General Manager, Passenger, Deborah Hume. 

“Winter demand for KiwiRail Scenic’s long distance passenger services (May through September) is much slower than the summer tourist season. For the Coastal Pacific service, the drop in demand in these winter months is even more pronounced than the TranzAlpine, as this train serves a less well known and travelled route. Added to this, since the February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, travel to and from the city has dropped significantly due to the loss of tourist related facilities and accommodation.

“Very low numbers of people used the train during last winter, although there was an increase during the school holidays. However, KiwiRail needs to sell 130 seats on each service to break even, and on some days only 30 people were on board.

"We have had to take a really close look at how we make the best of the domestic and international market we have, and a seasonal timetable does this. A number of similar services in Australia and Canada also run seasonal timetables,” Ms Hume says.

Since October 2011 a number of initiatives have been implemented to revitalise the service including the introduction of new scenic carriages in November 2011 and a new menu; rebranding of the service (previously named Tranz Coastal); introducing special Scenic Escape travel packages including Whale Watch and wine tasting; and increasing fares by 20 percent to better reflect the increased international value of the product and the train service’s true operating costs.

“We recognise that the Coastal Pacific train is a fantastic addition to the tourism portfolio in the Canterbury region. However, we still have a business to run and the revenue loss from the drop in passenger numbers is not sustainable. We’ve had to make changes to accommodate for this, but we are confident that the market will recover over time, and KiwiRail Scenic remain very open to working with travel and tourism operators to identify further opportunities to increase tourism in the Canterbury and South Island region,” says Ms Hume.

The Coastal Pacific service will run until Sunday 5 May 2013 before closing for the winter. It will resume again at the start of October


Media Contact: Sophie Lee, Senior Communications Advisor, 04 498 3181 or 027 435 9464 or email.