KiwiRail’s new North Island train service, which will begin service in the middle of this year, has been given a new name – Northern Explorer.
The name was announced at the TRENZ conference, where New Zealand’s key tourism providers meet to showcase their products to international travel and tourism buyers.
“The new name signals a fundamentally different train service for the North Island and the transformation of the service into an internationally recognised tourism product,” says KiwiRail’s Scenic Manager Tom Evers-Swindell.
“This is a journey through the heart of New Zealand’s scenic North Island and the name Northern Explorer evokes a sense of discovery on a trip with a real New Zealand experience.”
Mr Evers-Swindell says that KiwiRail has and will continue to work with tourism operators to develop tourism packages and help showcase what is great about the North Island – both inside and outside the train.
“Feedback that KiwiRail received from Overlander passengers about the service is that while the scenery is beautiful and the staff are fantastic, the carriages are very old and the journey time is too long. The introduction of the Northern Explorer service with its new scenic carriages and shorter journey time will be a big shift in the experience that will be offered to our international and domestic passengers,” Mr Evers-Swindell says.
In addition to the new carriages, changes include a new café carriage, an open-air viewing carriage, a multi-lingual commentary system, in-carriage display maps and a new menu, showcasing New Zealand food and wine.
The new train will run three weekly services from Auckland and three weekly services from Wellington, with a lay-over day on Wednesday for vehicle maintenance. In addition to reducing the number of weekly services from 14 to six, 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 Mr Evers-Swindell.
“The future for long distance passenger train travel in New Zealand is now about creating a world-class travel experience rather than simply getting people from one place to another. We want to make the new Northern Explorer service – and the North Island – a must-do tourism experience for people travelling in and around New Zealand,” Mr Evers-Swindell says.