New Zealand's Coastal Pacific scenic train service back on the rails from December

New Zealand's Coastal Pacific scenic rail journey between Picton and Christchurch will relaunch from 1 December 2018.

One of New Zealand's great rail journeys - KiwiRail’s iconic Coastal Pacific scenic journey - will roll again from December 1 this year, two years after the service was put on hold while the railway line was rebuilt following the devastating Kaikoura earthquake. 

The rail journey between Picton, at the northern end of the South Island, and Christchurch on the eastern coast is a spectacular journey beginning (or ending) at Picton, in the Marlborough Sounds, passing through the Marlborough wine region, and following a dramatic coastline south to Christchurch.

The 6-hour train trip includes 98km travelling along the rugged Pacific coastline. It also journeys through 22 tunnels and crosses 175 bridges.

Bookings are expected to fill up quickly, according to KiwiRail GM Sales and Commerical, Alan Piper.

“We are delighted to confirm this well-loved service will be running again this summer, allowing thousands of travellers from around the world to once again enjoy this spectacular coastline by train,” Piper says. 

“We expect our services to fill up fast, particularly as many people will be keen to take advantage of the service to see the amazing job done to restore the road and railway line through this area." 

It's also welcome news for the people of Kaikoura, as the Coastal Pacific plays a critical role in the local economy by bringing thousands of tourists into the popular marine resort. Before the earthquake the Coastal Pacific carried about 43,000 passengers into the Marlborough/Kaikoura regions during the summer season, Piper said. 

KiwiRail is one of New Zealand’s largest tourism operators, delivering a million tourists around the country each year on its Great Journeys which include the three scenic train services and ferries between the North and South Islands. 

The scenic trains are becoming increasingly popular and they play an important role in taking tourists out into some of New Zealand's less accessible regions.

February and March this year were the biggest months ever on the South Island’s award-winning TranzAlpine rail journey and the North Island’s Northern Explorer, with business up more than 10% on any previous year, Piper said.

“Overall, TranzAlpine passenger business has grown by 90% over the past five years, while the Northern Explorer is up 71%."

The Coastal Pacific service was suspended after the 14 November Kaikoura earthquake in 2016. The Main North Line reopened to restricted freight services in September last year, just 10 months after the devastating earthquake.

Freight services have been running at night to allow work to continue during the day to repair the rail and road. Day time freight services are set to resume later this year. 

Key Facts: Coastal Pacific Great Journey

  • The Coastal Pacific will run daily from December 1, 2018 (except for Christmas Day) through until late April 2019
  • The Coastal Pacific services departs from Christchurch each morning, and returns from Picton each afternoon 
  • Booking for this service can be made by visiting  
  • Key stops along the 6-hour route include Rangiora, Kaikoura and Blenheim  
  • The journey includes 98km travelling along the rugged Pacific Coastline. It also journeys through 22 tunnels and crosses 175 bridges