The Coastal Pacific train service is to be reduced to a four day a week operation over the winter months from 11 May 2012, returning to full daily operation from 11 September 2012.
This Blog has been warning for some time about long distance rail passenger in New Zealand and its doubtful future if nothing is done to recover the situation.
A recent Blog at this site called for action on long distance rail in New Zealand - Blog link here.
The Christchurch earthquake truely has had a devastating effect. Maybe the time is right to give someone else a go.
Expect to see further service reductions if Kiwi Rail remain in this business as they focus on the Turnaround of their freight business. Next off the rack will be closure of the Capital Connection followed probably by alternate day running of the Overlander even during peak seasons. Maybe, like the Overland train between Melbouirne and Adelaide in Australia, they will operate with a simple crewing structure based in one location, say Auckland. Crew may overnight in Wellington or Auckland depending on home base. Sadly under this arrangment day return trips up or down the main trunk by train will not be possible any more. Truely the end of era.
I have previously stated the Overlander is anaemic and unlikely to survive much longer in its current form.
They have alluded to dealing in some way to these trains in recent communications (see the half year report here).
The press release extract
From 11 May to 11 September, KiwiRail’s Coastal Pacific train service between Christchurch and Picton will operate a reduced winter timetable. The return service will run on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday only, which are typically the most popular days for travel.
“The Coastal Pacific service historically operates at a loss during the winter months, and since the Christchurch earthquake in February last year, Coastal Pacific passenger numbers have been on average 30 to 35 percent below what they usually are,” says KiwiRail’s General Manager of Passenger Services, Deborah Hume.
“The Overlander service between Wellington and Auckland already operates a reduced winter timetable to cater for the drop in passenger demand over the slower winter period (May to September), and KiwiRail will now be doing the same with the Coastal Pacific.
“Reduced passenger numbers on the Coastal Pacific has meant that it would be commercially sensible to reduce services over the winter months, as we have done with the Overlander,” Ms Hume says.
While passenger numbers on the TranzAlpine service are still lower than they were prior to the Christchurch earthquake, passenger numbers are starting to build again for that service. The service is popular throughout both the summer and winter months, so will continue to run daily throughout the winter.
“As Christchurch recovers and hotel capacity is again expanded, and more attractions become available, we fully expect to see a return to passenger numbers travelling on TranzAlpine and the Coastal Pacific,” says Ms Hume.
From September 11, the Coastal Pacific will return to daily operations.