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Rail in New Zealand

The railway runs through the length of the New Zealand, from north of Whangarei as far as Bluff in the south.

There are over 4,000 kilometres of track and over 3,000 level crossings.

KiwiRail is responsible for freight operations on the rail network, manages the movement of all trains (passenger and freight) and is also responsible for managing the infrastructure, including rails, bridges and level crossings. There are also level crossings on non-KiwiRail lines, such as those operated by the Taieri Gorge or Glenbrook Railways.

Urban Passenger Trains


Each week KiwiRail (under the Tranz Metro brand) operates 2,200 suburban passenger services in Wellington under contract to Greater Wellington Regional Council.

In 2010/11 a significant amount of investment went into the Wellington rail network.  KiwiRail has extended the double tracks from McKay’s Crossing to Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast.

Other projects, such as an upgrade of the Johnsonville line and a new line into Wellington Station were also undertaken to improve the reliability of Wellington’s passenger services.

Greater Wellington Regional Council has also purchased 48 new Matangi trains from Korea which are being progressively introduced into service.


In Auckland, Transdev Auckland operates passenger rail services under contract to Auckland Transport, delivering more than 2,100 train services a week and 11 million passenger journeys each year.

A programme of modernisation has been in progress since late 2006 which culminates in the arrival of new electric trains from April 2014.

The electrification of the Auckland network will see 80kms of the rail corridor being electrified from Papakura in the south to Swanson in the west, and including the Onehunga and Manukau branch lines.

An ongoing public awareness and education campaign is underway to ensure Aucklanders are alert to the safety risks associated with electrification, including faster, quieter trains and electrified overhead wires which, at 25kv, are 100 times more powerful than the power supplied to a typical house.

More information about electrification and the associated safety risks is available here.

Other improvements aimed at improving reliability, frequency and comfort in recent years have included complete resignalling of the network, station upgrades at Newmarket, Panmure, Mt Albert and New Lynn, double-tracking of the Western Line, and newly introduced Onehunga Line and Manukau Line .

Long Distance Passenger Trains

KiwiRail Scenic Journeys also operates four long-distance passenger trains:

  • the Northern Explorer (Wellington to Auckland),
  • the Tranz Alpine (Christchurch to Greymouth),
  • the Coastal Pacific (Christchurch to Picton), and
  • the Capital Connection (Wellington to Palmerston North).

Freight Trains

Every week over 900 freight trains move around the country, transporting general freight and goods such as coal, milk and dairy products, wood and timber products, iron, steel and meat. 

A report by the Ministry of Transport in 2009 forecast overall freight volumes to rise by 75 percent over the next 20 years.

Changes in use of lines

The Onehunga Branch Line was brought back into use for passenger trains in 2010 after a 37-year absence.  The new Manukau Branch Line is due to open in Auckland in 2012.

The Castlecliff Industrial Line in Wanganui also reopened in 2011 to meet a need to transport dairy products to the Port of Taranaki for export.  In 2012 the Rotorua Branch Line will reopen after a 10 year hiatus.

The future of other railway lines in New Zealand is currently being assessed, including the North Auckland line and the Napier to Gisborne line.

When railway lines re-open, there is a need to raise public awareness about the increased safety risks due to the renewed movement of trains around level crossings.

Always remember

Double check there is space on the other side of the crossing for your vehicle.

Your stories
Latest news

Aucklanders reminded to take care around trains on eve of electric train services

Thursday, April 24, 2014

With Monday heralding a new era of electric train services for Auckland, KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ are reminding Aucklanders to stay alert and vigilant around level crossings and train tracks.

TrackSAFE NZ Manager Megan Drayton says “electric trains are quiet and this means there will be an even greater need for people to stay focused around railway tracks.” 

“We would encourage everyone to make sure they have removed headphones when around level crossings, always look both ways for trains and to cross tracks only when the lights and bells are not operating.”

Ms Drayton also says people also need to remember that the only legal place they are allowed to cross the railway is at designated level crossings.

KiwiRail’s Acting Chief Executive Iain Hill says “We advise motorists and pedestrians to take extra care looking for trains at stations and level crossings, to obey the warning signs when approaching level crossings and to always ensure there is space for their vehicle on the other side before driving over the crossing.”

Nationwide, there have been 18 collisions involving vehicles at level crossings last year, three of which were fatal. This compares to 16 collisions in 2012.

Mr Hill has also reinforced the need for extra care and responsible behaviour around newly installed overhead electricity wires along the Auckland rail corridor. “We have seen fatalities and injuries on overhead wires in other parts of New Zealand and elsewhere in the world,’” says Mr Hill.

“We do not want to have an incident in Auckland so we ask that people stay well clear of these wires at all times.” Electric train services will commence along the Onehunga Branch Line from Monday with services being progressively added to other parts of the network in stages over the next eighteen months.

Earlier in the month, the Prime Minister officially ‘switched on’ the electric train wires that will enable new services to commence operation on Monday.

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