KiwiRail has announced the return of its beloved TranzAlpine train service between Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island and Greymouth in the west. Closed in March before lockdown began, the train will be operational from 4 July onwards.

“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,” KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller said. 

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KiwiRail will offer full refunds for any trips that will not go ahead © TranzAlpine / KiwiRail

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, from 6 to 17 of July inclusive, on the same timetable as weekends. According to KiwiRail, the company hopes to offer families an opportunity to try out the experience during this time. The fares are changeable, fully refundable and available at the winter special rate of NZ$75 (US$48) per seat one way.

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The reopening of the route has been the company’s top priority for its scenic train services, which on average has more overseas than domestic customers. KiwiRail 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. It also operates 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,” Greg Miller said. “We have utilized 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.”

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With international visitors gone, the company hopes New Zealanders will try out the experience in greater numbers © TranzAlpine / KiwiRail

Booking are open now for journeys in July and August, and bookings will open shortly for September and beyond. KiwiRail said that customers who have booked in for other services that have been cancelled will be contacted with full refunds. More information is available at the official website.

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