Ki­wiRail backs lux­ury train plan

The Dominion Post - - News - LORNA THORNBER

The com­pany be­hind a planned lux­ury train ser­vice trav­el­ling the length of New Zealand is adamant its ven­ture won’t re­quire gov­ern­ment fund­ing, and says it has had ‘‘hugely con­struc­tive’’ sup­port from state rail op­er­a­tor Ki­wiRail.

An­tipodean Ex­plorer co-founder and gen­eral man­ager Amanda John­ston also re­vealed more de­tails about the pro­posal, which has at­tracted wide­spread in­ter­est since it was an­nounced at the New Zealand China May­oral Fo­rum on Mon­day.

Graeme Carter, the pres­i­dent of the New Zealand Rail­way and Lo­co­mo­tive So­ci­ety, said parts of the Ki­wiRail net­work would need up­grad­ing, and there­fore gov­ern­ment fund­ing, to cope with a new pas­sen­ger ser­vice.

John­ston said the An­tipodean Ex­plorer business plan was to run on only cur­rently avail­able lines.

‘‘No gov­ern­ment fund­ing is re­quired for the launch of the business,’’ she said.

‘‘Our plan is to travel as far south as In­ver­cargill, then use a lux­ury coach fol­lowed by a ferry to fin­ish across Lake Wakatipu into cen­tral Queen­stown,’’ she said.

If parts of the rail net­work which cur­rently can­not take pas­sen­ger trains were up­graded, the ser­vice could be ad­justed to in­clude them.

An­other chal­lenge pointed out by Carter was the num­ber of freight trains op­er­at­ing on parts of the route.

John­ston said: ‘‘This has been ex­ten­sively con­sid­ered on ev­ery branch line in the coun­try, guided by Ki­wiRail, who have been hugely con­struc­tive in their sup­port of the project to this point.’’

An­tipodean Ex­plorer hoped to have the new ser­vice up and run­ning within the next two years.

It is backed by Chi­nese com­pany Fuh Wah, the de­vel­oper be­hind the $200 mil­lion, five-star Park Hy­att Ho­tel un­der con­struc­tion on Auck­land’s water­front.

A spokesper­son for Ki­wiRail said it had been in ne­go­ti­a­tions for months ‘‘re­gard­ing ac­cess to the net­work and other com­mer­cial ar­range­ments for the pro­posed new lux­ury train ser­vice’’.

De­tails of the ne­go­ti­a­tions, which are on­go­ing, are com­mer­cially sen­si­tive, the spokesper­son said, re­fus­ing to com­ment fur­ther.

Carter said he thought the An­tipodean Ex­plorer project was a good idea but would ‘‘chal­lenge’’ Ki­wiRail. He hoped the project would suc­ceed.

The train will stop for be­tween two and five hours ev­ery morn­ing and af­ter­noon, giv­ing guests the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate their own itin­er­ar­ies. ‘‘We will part­ner with more than 75 ex­ist­ing tourism busi­nesses to pro­vide this ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ John­ston said.

Price de­tails for the new ser­vice have not been re­vealed but she said they would be ‘‘on a par with other lux­ury trains around the world’’ – such as the Venice Sim­plon-Ori­ent-Ex­press.

‘‘I think it will be one of the best train jour­neys in the world be­cause of the breadth of scenery here.’’

"This has been ex­ten­sively con­sid­ered on ev­ery branch line in the coun­try, guided by Ki­wiRail."

An­tipodean Ex­plorer gen­eral man­ager Amanda John­ston


A cabin on the Venice Sim­plon-Ori­ent-Ex­press, a lux­ury train ser­vice be­tween Euro­pean cities.

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