KiwiRail’s all new Northern Explorer train service was launched on Monday, departing Britomart Station in Auckland with its first passengers. “We’re really excited to introduce a new, international standard train service for the North Island. This is a fundamentally different service to the Overlander with a focus on tourism and experiential travel,” says KiwiRail’s General Manager Passenger Deborah Hume.
Ms Hume and KiwiRail Chief Executive Jim Quinn were at Britomart to farewell the new train. They were joined by Auckland Tourism’s Visitor Experience Manager Brent Warren and Auckland Council’s Transport Committee Chair Mike Lee.
The train has a brand new set of purpose-built scenic carriages which feature large panoramic windows, a GPS triggered, an at-seat commentary system, ceiling-mounted HD screens with in-carriage display maps and an open air viewing carriage.
“These new carriages are the key to revitalising the North Island service,” Ms Hume says. “They have already proved themselves on the Coastal Pacific route and feedback from customers, tourism operators and travel writers has been uniformly positive. The new scenic carriages will give us the platform from which we can transform the North Island service into a high-value, must-do tourist experience.”
Yesterday, members of the public had a chance to view the new train at Britomart before it went into service.
Other changes to the North Island train include a new timetable with a faster journey time of 10 and-a-half hours, new fares and a new menu.
The new train will run from Auckland on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and from Wellington on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, with a lay-over day on Wednesday for vehicle maintenance. A shorter journey time with fewer stops is also being introduced. Intermediate stops will be limited to Hamilton, National Park, Ohakune and Palmerston North.
“The new timetable will be operating year-round – 6 days a week every week of the year, making it easier for customers to plan their journeys,” says Ms Hume.
Ticket prices for the new service will range from $158 to $198 and there will be promotional fares on offer for the service’s launch.
“We are focused on building the North Island service into a better product to attract more tourists – both international and domestic,” says Ms Hume. “We’re very keen to work with local businesses and tourism operators to develop tourism packages and help showcase what is great about the North Island – both inside and outside the train.
“We know with new carriages and a completely new product, the North Island rail service between Auckland and Wellington has the potential to be a great travel and tourism experience for the North Island,” Ms Hume says.