New Zealand


New Zealand Railways Corp was reorganised during the 1980s leading to separation of formerly integrated activities such as the inter-island ferries. Further restructuring in the 1990s led to privatisation in 1993 and rebranding as TranzRail in 1995.

A movement back towards state ownership began in 2002 when the government purchased the rail infrastructure in the Auckland region. An urban electrification programme began in 2008, with switch to electric traction in 2014. This network is operated by Transdev Auckland. Further expansion includes construction of a cross-city tunnel.

From 2003, TranzRail’s financial position weakened, and in 2004 Australia’s Toll Holdings bought and renamed it Toll NZ. As part of the deal, the state agreed to take back infrastructure ownership and tackle a maintenance backlog, creating an infrastructure company ONTRACK owned by NZ Rail Corp, with Toll NZ to pay for track access. Negotiations over access charges broke down in 2008, leading to the government buying back the rail and ferry operations, with KiwiRail established on July 1 2008 as a business also owned by NZ Rail Corp. A second separation of operations from infrastructure followed at the end of 2012, with NZ Rail Corp managing the real estate and land assets, leaving KiwiRail to focus on rail and ferry operations.

An initial 10-year ”Turnaround Plan” was launched in 2010, aiming to revitalise the network and modernise rolling stock with the aims of improving transit times and increasing capacity. However several external influences, including major earthquakes and decline in the world coal market hampered progress, had an impact on finances and implementation of the plan, including consideration of abandoning mainline electrification so as to operate a standard diesel locomotive fleet until reprieved in 2018.

A change of government in October 2017 resulted in a more positive outlook for rail, with infrastructure improvements beings funded through a National Land Transport Fund. Publication of a ”10-year Rail Plan” in May 2021 aims to establish a long-term planning and funding framework for rail infrastructure, to be funded on a similar basis to other land transport modes, and to provide reliability and resilience to support traffic growth.


Key data

Maps New Zealand | City: Auckland
Population 5·1 million
Network 4 100 km
Gauge 1 067 mm
Electrification 490 km at 25 kV AC - North Island main line, plus Auckland suburban (150 route-km);
95 km at 1·5 kV DC - Wellington suburban
Industry Structure Restructured and privatised in the 1990s, private ownership struggled through to the 2000s, since when in phases infrastructure and operations have been renationalised. Now a state-owned enterprise, KiwiRail manages rail and ferry operations, with infrastructure managed by state-owned KiwiRail Network.