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Train Travel in New Zealand

Just like bus travel in New Zealand, train travel in New Zealand is not exactly a very popular way to travel. However, train travel remains the best way to see a country’s beauty. Plus you can stretch your legs and grab something to eat at the restaurant car.

Advantages of train travel in New Zealand

It’s true that the are only 4 passenger train routes in New Zealand, that it takes a lot to travel from one city to another (due to the landscape, the speed of travel is often under 100 km/h) and the network is renowned for the many cancellations, but there are also advantages of train travel in New Zealand:

  • you can enjoy a unique view of the scenery
  • you can bring large equipment with you (i.e. surf boards, mountain bikes) which are impossible to bring in a bus or small car
  • you can stop in smaller towns just to soak up the atmosphere and continue the journey the next day
  • you can grab something to eat
  • the outdoor viewing platforms and panoramic viewing lounges are excellent for taking photos of the scenery
  • guides explain the history of each area

Long Distance Rail Services in New Zealand

Long distance passenger rail service is provided by Tranz Scenic on both the North and the South Islands. And there are three main passenger lines:

  • The TranzAlpine: is one of the most popular route between Christchurch and Greymouth (and return)
  • The Overlander : offers services from Auckland to Wellington (and return)
  • The TranzCoastal: offers services on the South Island from Christchurch to Picton (and return)

Commuter Services in New Zealand

Commuter services are offered by:

  • Tranz Scenic : weekday commuter service – the Capital Connection- between Palmerston North and Wellington
  • Tranz Metro : offers a commuter service – the Wairarapa Connection – between Masterton and Wellington.

What to expect in a train

The trains are slightly narrower than ones in the United States. At the end of each car there are restrooms with flush toiled and sink (just like in the European trains). Smoking is forbidden in the train and all trains are provided with AC and heat.

On the Overlander trains (North Island), the last car of each train is the lounge. Seats are not reserved here and the passengers can move freely. All three sides of the train are glass, offering superb views of the scenery.

Outdoor viewing platform are also available on trains both on the North and South Islands. But on the Overlander trains the viewing platforms are small while on the trains serving the South Island the viewing platform is the size of an entire traincar.

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