Capital Connection “Safe”


The saving of the Palmerston North to Wellington Capital Connection KiwiRail service at least for now shows how much it’s worth putting up a fight over provincial rail services or rail services we might lose.

As the Palmy local paper in an editorial says this morning:

“Comments from KiwiRail and solid passenger numbers on the service suggest it is no longer in imminent danger. Since Wellington metro services were extended north to Waikanae in February, the viability of the Capital Connection service has been under review amid fears of a passenger exodus due to the increased competition and more convenient scheduling.

But patronage of the Capital Connection has remained relatively steady, despite an initial drop-off. On top of that, a strong public campaign to keep the service running, led by Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway, sent a powerful message to KiwiRail that Manawatu wouldn’t let it be axed without a fight.

While that in and of itself would not keep the Capital Connection running if it was losing money, one should never underestimate the power of public pressure. For that, the region should be incredibly proud of itself. Manawatu rallied to protect something it valued, and once again revealed the depth of passion and resolve of the people who call this place home.”

Losing the Capital Connection would be a bad signal at a time Waikato authorities are trying to move ahead with the plans for a Hamilton-Auckland commuter service and the fight is on over various provincial lines KiwiRail is talking about mothballing.
This week Auckland Councillors learnt how quickly things can change as they heard how $14m of funding

was to disappear unexpectedly.
No doubt more unexpected surprises will happen over the next while as fiscal storms and natural disasters affect the Government’s coffers and the pressure is going to on for more and more cutbacks.
Stay alert as the editorial also suggests:

..”The service’s long-term future is by no means assured, and we must take a valuable lesson from the months of wrangling and uncertainty that have bedevilled it: the Capital Connection can never be taken for granted again.”

BTW I love this KiwiRail publicity shot for the Capital Connection:

On board Capital Connection | TranzScenic




  1. joust says:

    what a relief - it offers a marvellous service

  2. Bryan says:

    The battle’s not over yet. KiwiRail have said they are concerned numbers may drop off after all the Matangis are in service. imho they don’t offer the facilities to attract too many off the CC.

  3. Paul in Sydney says:

    That’s great

    I didn’t get the feeling it was at risk, yes there was a drop off in the first couple of weeks as people tried the new service. I think it was all down to the ridership numbers or more importantly the dollars. Has anyone seen the bottom line of the service?

    Not much happened on Iain Less-G’s Facebook campaign.

    Who owns the carriage set, KR or Welly Council?

    It’s a great service and I enjoy the trip home when the chance arises, long live the CC

  4. Daniel says:

    @ Paul: Seeing as it is a Tranz Scenic service not a Tranz Metro Wellington Service, it is most likely owned by KiwiRail. Can anyone else clarify?? I think the capital connection used to be apart of Tranz Metro a while back, but for some reason was transferred to Tranz Scenic.

  5. BD says:

    Why can’t they extend the Matangis all the way to Palmerston North and have a proper Wellington to Palmerston North commuter service, this could also include a Otaki service as well. Double tracking and Electrification should go all the way up to Palmerston North, major upgrades to the existing alignment, like curves straightened and level crossings eliminated in places. If they could cut the time down it takes to get there the service would become even more popular and they wouldn’t have the risk of it being cancelled.

    The problem is guys we have short-sighted government that looks after its own interest over the people.

  6. Daniel says:

    Because there is that little issue called money! Money to fund electrification, and double tracking does not come cheap!! And lets not forget station upgrades, platform extenstions, more stafff to service this new extension etc etc.

    The Matangis will have enough work just maintaining Wellington’s commuter services let alone extending there services all the way to Palmerston North.

    Also, the Palmerston North to Wellington service is not part of Wellington Metro services as opposed to the Wellington to Masterton service. If anything, if we were going to do more electrification and extend the use of the Matangis, then we should be doing this to Masterton.

  7. Max says:

    I would be surprised if the Capital Connection is retained with the current equipment. I have a funny feeling that the current Capital Connection set may end up as the new “Kiwirail Overlander”

  8. Kris says:

    For Daniel - For Capital Connection is operated by Tranz Scenic (or Kiwi rail passenger Services) and is jointly marketed by Tranz Metro and Greater Wellington Regional Council.

    For BD -The cost of electrifying Paraparaumu to Waikanae was about $1 million per km.

    It would make sense to electrify from Waikanae to Palmerston North, then the could use the main trunk electric locomotives for freight to Wellington, as these machines are dual voltage

    Then electrify Papakura to Hamilton.

    For Max - I would agree with you about using the currect CC rolling stock. Those carriages were originally done for the Overlander but where transfered to the CC service.

    With new refurbished carriages coming into service for the TranzAlpine later this year and for the TranzCoastal some time next year, I would suspect, the best of the current rolling stock would be transfered to the CC.

    Kiwirail has $18 million set a side for new refurbished carriages for the Overlander, so I would suspect, KR would used the existing CC carriages for the refurbishment programme, due to their low mileage.

  9. Paul in Sydney says:

    @Max — The Overlander only runs with about 3 carriages + baggage and the CC is double that easily

    @ BD — big ideas, very very long term. Double tracking is a bit ott, straighten out some curves and put in good (long) passing loops would make a massive difference, this is happening as part of KR’s main trunk AKL to CHCH route improvements, to what extent these improvements are taking would be interesting to know. North South junction (North of Welly) tunnel upgrade is all part of that, removing speed restrictions etc

    Then there’s electrification and the two different power supplies meeting (Welly DC & NIMT AC) and where do they meet? Duel voltage Loco’s and Emu’s would be needed to run across the different systems, all solvable with loads of cash

  10. JC says:

    The CC is run with S class carriages (it was the first train to get refurbished BR Mk 2 carriages in the the late 90s, and has had them ever since) - not the old refurbished ones the Overlander is stuck with. I would suspect the Overlander would get the TranzAlpine carriages once the new stock enters service.

    The loading gauge across the tunnels on Paekakariki to Paraparaumu section of the line are too small to allow the EF locos to run through - so for maintenance they have to be transferred via the alternate route down through Masterton to the Hutt Workshops.

    Jon - the picture of the train is not actually the Capital Connection…
    Should be more like this

  11. Geoff says:

    I agree with Paul, I never got the impression of the train being in danger. KiwiRail only ever said they were uncertain of the effects of the Waikanae trains, so they would review the situation as it develops. Now that patronage has stayed the same (as some of us predicted), it just means there will be no change.

    The Capital Connection is a profitable service for KR, so they would be wanting to retain it.

  12. Max says:

    I believe that there are 8 CC carriages, plus the guards van with the gen and wheelchair hoist. So that could run as two three or four car Overlanders plus the gen van, if three cars proving some spare. Another gen van with hoist would need to be built. The carriage are 12 years old post refit and could do with a refurb.into the Kiwiral colours The current Tranzalpine and other 56′ carriages are unless I am mistaken wooden framed and ther is an issue with their continued use for safety reasons.

  13. Bryan says:

    “Kiwirail has $18 million set a side for new refurbished carriages for the Overlander,”

    When was this set aside? If so, it should be spent at Hillside on more AK carriages. The current carriages are over 50 years old - even if KR pick the best of the Tranz Alpine carriages, they’re still going to be ancient. :-(

  14. Giel says:

    Kris / Bryan - That $18 Million may have been a request by KiwiRail for Overlander investment but I think the business case may have struggled under KR management. I don’t think you can say KR has any money specifically set aside for the Overlander. In fact KR are saying the Overlander is difficult to justify any investment (Tom Evers- Swindell - Tranz Scenic Manager). They are now looking to potentially redesign the service more into a tour train type service as opposed to a regular intercity train between Auckland and Wellington. This was also envisaged by Toll NZ for the Overlander back when they saved the service in 2006 and they had several ideas such as just running daily between Hamilton and Palmerston North return. This required connecting trains between Wellington and Palmerston North (more frequent Capital Connection services) and a frequent Waikato Connections from Auckland to Hamilton to connect with the new service. These connecting services would be part funded by the regions whilst the Overlander was supposed to be commercial like the Tranz Alpine.

    The Overlander is now Tranz Scenics “problem child”. However the whole Tranz Scenic business is in dire straits due to the Christchurch Earthquake fallout and very low patronage as a result. All bets are off until KR announce who their JV partner is for Tranz Scenic and also how the JV will be structured. But look to see KR relieved of more assets on its Balance Sheet (like it has been for Metro Rail in Wellington). The new AK cars could be sold off to the new partner (or leased) as part of doing that. Pity that timing is now so bad as the jewels in the Crown - the Tranz Alpine and the Tranz Coastal are struggling due to that Christchurch Earthquake fallout.

    It’s going to be interesting to watch the KR impending capital, and resulting operational, restructuring and what grows out of that. Hopefully, better capital deployment. I still find it astounding that all that Capital tied up in the Capital Connection is only used for four hours a day five days a week in what is supposed to be a “Commercial Service”. Go figure - is that Commercial???A new owner needs to drive that asset better with higher utilisation.

  15. Matt says:

    I too think they could do more with the Palmy-Welly route. Full electrification would be great, but in the meantime with no extra rolling stock they could have 3 services a day. See my post at

  16. tuktuk says:

    Interesting info. Surely they wouldn’t try to sell off Tranz Scenic at the moment. As every house owner can tell you, you want to sell in a sellers market. In the middle of a global recession and hard on the heels of the Canterbury Earthquakes, flogging off brand new AK carriages seems like incredibly poor asset management.


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