Toll to cancel Overlander train service

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Toll New Zealand has said that it will cancel the Overlander train service from September 30, 2006. The train runs from Auckland to Wellington, and is the only passenger train service that does.

The North Island Main Trunk line has been used in New Zealand for passenger services for 97 years, beginning in 1909.

Toll said it had been running the train service at a loss for many years now and was no longer viable to continue running the service. They also say that they approached the New Zealand Government for help so they could continue the Overlander but "after working through with the Government both parties concluded there was not the passenger numbers to justify keeping it running. Significant investment would also have been required to replace the aging carriage fleet," David Jackson, Chief Executive of Toll New Zealand, said.

Only 50,000 people used the train each year compared to the 200,000 people who use the Tranz Alpine in the South Island.

It was cheaper and shorter to catch a plane, between NZ$100-$282 for an one-hour flight, compared to $158-$170 for a 12-hour journey.

The New Zealand Green Party is disappointed by the news. Co-leader of Greens, Jeanette Fitzsimons, said "I predict that as oil prices continue to rise further we will need The Overlander again."