Inter-regional rail journeys a strategic opportunity

Image of Two passengers looking out from inside the open coach of Northern Explorer Train in New Zealand.

The New Zealand head of global public transport provider Transdev is welcoming KiwiRail’s decision to relaunch the Northern Explorer Auckland to Wellington rail service.

However, Transdev New Zealand’s Chief Officer and Managing Director Greg Pollock is also urging the Government to consider overseas travel trends, the opportunities to reduce emissions, and the new technologies that are becoming available, and how they might apply to the North Island Main Trunk Line.

KiwiRail yesterday announced that the Explorer would return in the Summer, to serve the domestic tourism market. The service was suspended in March, soon after New Zealand’s borders were closed to most foreigners.

“Transdev provides public transport services across five continents, and facilitates an average of 11 million journeys each day. From our perspective, good inter-regional public transport services are just as important as good metro public transport services; in terms of connecting communities, supporting economies, and reducing travel emissions,” says Greg Pollock.

“While KiwiRail’s tourism services are iconic, we think there could be room in the market for some innovation, and some new types of services that meet the different travel needs of New Zealanders.

“Internationally, the demand for inter-regional rail services is increasing. This is happening as more people recognise the efficiencies they offer, including the benefits of sleeper trains, and the fact that long distance rail can slash travel emissions,” Mr Pollock says.

“In addition, zero emission rail technologies are developing rapidly, and may soon be able to plug the gaps between the electrified and non-electrified sections of the route between Auckland and Wellington.

“If the Government wanted to test the market for such a service, and provide New Zealanders with a wider range of modern customer-focussed rail services, as New Zealand’s largest passenger rail operator Transdev would be open to becoming involved,” says Mr Pollock.

“Following a successful trial, the next step should be to run a well-subscribed, competitive tender process to deliver the value for money, quality and reliability that customers would be looking for.

“Regardless of who ran it, the service should also take account of the changed needs of the market, post-COVID – including domestic holidaymakers, overseas tourists, or those people who might become overnight commuters,” says Greg Pollock.

According to Mr Pollock it’s clear that the communities along the North Island Main Trunk Line believe it is important that passenger services return.

“It has been great to see the level of support from the communities and councils along the route, which have been lobbying for the resumption of the Explorer service. I’m glad that the Northern Explorer will be back, as it’s an important part of New Zealand’s rail legacy,” says Greg Pollock.

A letter from 18 regional, district and city councils will be presented to Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee in Wellington today (Thursday July 30) in support of the Explorer’s return.

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