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KiwiRail’s Interislander ferry service is an extension of State Highway 1 and the Main Trunk Line across Cook Strait, linking road and rail networks between New Zealand’s North and South islands.

One of the world's most beautiful ferry journeys, it is also a popular tourism service and one of our Great Journeys of New Zealand.

We currently operate three ferries – Kaiarahi,  Kaitaki  and the rail-enabled Aratere - that cross the strait a combined total of 4000 times a year.

The Kaitaki (meaning Challenger) can carry up to 1400 passengers, while the Aratere (Quickpath) has capacity for 600 and the Kaiarahi (Leader/Guardian) 550.

Between them they transport nearly 800,000 passengers and 250,000 cars a year.

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The future of our ferry fleet

The ships in the Interislander fleet are reaching the end of their useful lives and KiwiRail has begun the procurement process for two new, large rail-enabled ferries which we hope to have in operation by 2024.

Along with the fleet replacement, KiwiRail is working with stakeholders including Wellington and Marlborough ports on facilities for the new ships.

More information on Interislander, including booking tickets, is available here.

The Inter-island Resilience Connection project (iReX)

KiwiRail is progressing plans to replace the current fleet of three ferries with two new, large rail-enabled ferries from 2024.

Our current ferries need to be replaced due to their age and we’re planning for future growth in passenger numbers and freight volumes. The terminal infrastructure also needs to be upgraded due to age and also to meet the requirements of the new ships.

This project represents a transformational investment in critical infrastructure that also provides an iconic New Zealand experience. This once-in-a-generation investment is expected to generate significant tourism, economic and environmental benefits for the whole of New Zealand.

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The ships

At 220m long, the new ships  will be significantly larger that our current vessels and be able to transport more people, cars and freight. The sister ships will be able to take both rail and truck freight.

The new ships must be designed to contribute to meeting KiwiRail’s carbon emission reduction targets of 30% by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2050. Currently Interislander contributes 40% of the total KiwiRail carbon emission 2012 baseline.  These ships will meet Interislander carbon emissions reduction targets for 2030 from the time they enter into service and will significantly contribute to the overall KiwiRail reduction targets.

The terminals

The next major milestone for Picton terminal design is to share with the community the designs we’ll lodge for consenting. Working jointly with Port Marlborough and the NZ Transport Agency, we have developed a design to reconfigure the terminal facilities. We are also considering transport changes to mitigate the effects of longer trains and more vehicles traveling on the ferries.

For more information on the Picton terminal redevelopment and how to have your say click here.

Our work with CentrePort in Wellington is also underway though not quite as advanced. We have analysed a range of options for upgrading the Kaiwharawhara terminal and have identified our preferred option that we are progressing to concept design.

Upgrades to Kaiwharawhara are being considered within the larger, long-term context of the multi-user terminal being planned in Wellington by the Future Ports Forum.