KiwiRail backs luxury train plan
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.