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Trains in New Zealand

New Zealand trains transport both freight and people.

Urban passenger trains

Wellington and Auckland are the only cities with an urban rail network. This means thousands of passengers can travel between suburbs and the central city.

Long distance passenger trains

KiwiRail operates long-distance passenger trains. You might have heard of the “Great Journeys of New Zealand” brand. These include:

  • The Northern Explorer (Wellington to Auckland)
  • The Tranz Alpine (Christchurch to Greymouth)
  • The Coastal Pacific (Christchurch to Picton).

Freight trains

Every week over 900 freight trains move around the country. These trains carry freight and goods.

Electric trains

All electric rail is in the North Island and includes:

  • The Wellington Metro Line
  • 65% of the North Island Main Trunk Line NIMT
  • The Auckland Metro Line.

The Wellington Metro Line includes the Johnsonville, Kāpiti, Hutt Valley and Melling lines.

460 kilometres of the North Island Main Trunk Line is electrified in three separate sections. These sections are between:

  • Wellington and Waikanae
  • Palmerston North and Te Rapa (Hamilton)
  • Papakura and Auckland Britomart.

The Auckland Metro Line opened in 2015 and runs from Swanson in the west to Papakura in the south. This line is helping to reduce road traffic in Auckland.

Electric propulsion is ideal for use in tunnels as there is no smoke build up. New Zealand’s first electrified railway was a 14-kilometre section through the Ōtira tunnel, which opened in 1923. In 1929 electric locomotives were used on the Christchurch to Lyttelton line. This included the Lyttelton tunnel. The Lyttelton line switched to diesel in 1970 and the Ōtira line also switched to diesel in 1997.

Train Control

The Train Control Centre is in Wellington. All New Zealand’s trains are controlled from here. Trains are located using GPS and tracked so train controllers can manage signal changes.

The railway is private property

Railway tracks and rail yards are private property. You cannot:

  • cross railway tracks anywhere other than on an official level crossing.
  • enter railway property without permission.

Ready for a quiz? Try the Trains in New Zealand interactive activity.

Upgrading New Zealand's Rail Network

The government is to spend one billion dollars on KiwiRail. This includes:

  • $375 million for new wagons and engines
  • $331 million on track and service upgrades
  • $300 million for the development of rail in small regions
  • and $35 million to replace two ferries.

The Auckland City Rail Link also has funding. This link will be equal to 16 extra lanes of traffic into the city centre.

Audio Māori keywords:

Do you think it is important for the government to spend money on our rail network and why do you think this?