KiwiRail launches new premium service — at more than twice the price of standard fares


If you’d hoped KiwiRail would add to its scenic train journeys, you’ve got your wish (kind of). But you’ll have to pay twice the regular price for a ticket.

The state-run rail company has launched a new premium service on its TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific routes in the South Island featuring regionally-inspired food and wines and local commentary.

The TranzAlpine crossing the Waimakariri Bridge.

KiwiRail/Supplied

The TranzAlpine crossing the Waimakariri Bridge.

A “Scenic Plus” fare on the TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth costs $239 one way, while a standard scenic fare costs from $109.

Scenic Plus fares on the Coastal Pacific between Christchurch and Picton, set to resume on October 13, will be $229 one way, while a standard scenic fare will cost $99.

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Scenic Plus fares on the Coastal Pacific between Christchurch and Picton, set to resume on October 13, will be $229 one way, while a standard scenic fare will cost $99.

KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller acknowledged that it had been a difficult year for businesses and communities which rely on income from visitors, but said he was “delighted to announce” long-distance trains in the South Island “will soon offer an enhanced level of service for those whose holiday budgets cater for extras.

Canterbury grass-fed roast lamb will be among the meals offered in Scenic Plus carriages on the Coastal Pacific.

KiwiRail/Supplied

Canterbury grass-fed roast lamb will be among the meals offered in Scenic Plus carriages on the Coastal Pacific.

“This is just the beginning of a transformation of scenic train travel over the coming years.”

Before the Covid-19 pandemic KiwiRail’s scenic train journeys catered to mostly international visitors, with many Kiwis complaining that fares were too high.

Globally, railways are becoming increasingly popular as tourists become more conscious of the environmental costs of travel.

However, despite initial discounts when services relaunched after the nationwide lockdown, the financial cost of scenic train journeys in New Zealand has not changed.

For those who like the idea of luxury train journeys though, the Scenic Plus fares may well appeal.

The TranzAlpine runs return trips on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays between Christchurch and Greymouth.

KiwiRail/Supplied

The TranzAlpine runs return trips on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays between Christchurch and Greymouth.

Meals on Scenic Plus journeys will be delivered directly to passengers’ seats and range from breakfast bowls and pastries, to salad bowls, artisan cheese boards, dessert platters and “classic Kiwi canapes”.

A salad bowl with grass-fed roasted lamb loin from Canterbury is among the dishes available on the TranzAlpine, while guests will be able to tuck into Marlborough salmon and Kaikōura crayfish on the Coastal Pacific.

Regardless of which ticket is purchased, Miller said the South Island journeys all offer “world-class carriages with large panoramic windows and skylights through which to enjoy New Zealand’s most spectacular landscapes”.

Bookings are open for all three scenic rail journeys, which also include the Northern Explorer between Auckland and Wellington, which will not resume until the whole of the North Island is at level one. Plans are afoot to introduce the Scenic Plus service on the Northern Explorer “in due course”.

Scenic Plus fares are available on TranzAlpine journeys from October 16 and on Coastal Pacific services from October 20.

Initially, one carriage on each journey will be reserved for Scenic Plus passengers.

The Government allocated KiwiRail $1.2 billion in this year’s budget, some of which is to be used to help replace the Cook Strait ferries.