Rail is a major contributor to national and regional economic growth. It reduces emissions and congestion, reduces road deaths and injuries, delivers wider social benefits, and provides resilience and connection between communities.

The Future of Rail is a cross-agency project led by the Ministry of Transport, working alongside KiwiRail, the NZ Transport Agency, the Treasury, Auckland Transport, and Greater Wellington to define and develop the Future of Rail in New Zealand.

We are also reviewing the Metropolitan Operating Model for Rail with Greater Wellington Regional Council and Auckland Transport, and this work will be progressed alongside the Future of Rail. 

The purpose of this work is to integrate rail into the transport system, so rail is planned, funded and looked after alongside other transport modes.

Previous investment in New Zealand’s rail network has centred on looking at ‘how much’ needs to be invested in rail to get the existing network functioning.

The Future of Rail looks at what purpose rail serves, and what outcomes rail can deliver for New Zealand as part of the transport system.

The Future of Rail project is also working on how we can integrate rail planning and funding into the transport system so it can be looked after in the same way as other modes. It defines the purpose of rail in the transport system, and provides certainty for the Government on what investment is needed for it to play that role.

Investment agreed to support resilient and reliable rail system

Through Budget 2019, a total of $1.042 billion has been approved as the first instalment of rail investments across the decade.

This includes $741 million to support a resilient and reliable rail system to:

  • restore the track and other supporting infrastructure by addressing legacy maintenance issues across the rail network
  • replace and upgrade assets including container wagons, locomotives and maintenance facilities at the end of their useable life, and
  • fund the procurement phase for replacing the current ferries and landside assets that are nearing the end of their useable life.

It compliments investments through the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport to support metro and interregional rail services, and through the Provincial Growth Fund to support rail that accelerates regional development and increases regional productivity.

This investment will allow KiwiRail to improve the resilience of the rail network and invest in much-needed assets so that rail services can be more reliable, and maintain and grow its share of the freight market and passenger services. The investment will help rail to deliver the range of economic, social, and environmental benefits the Government seeks.

Providing longer-term direction for rail

One focus of the Future of Rail project is to develop the New Zealand Rail Plan. The plan will lay out our vision for rail over the next decade, and the levels of investment needed to get there. It includes looking at how rail fits into national and regional transport planning, and how rail infrastructure can be funded sustainably.

The Rail Plan will have a 10-year horizon and set out a range of matters, including:

  • the Government’s longer-term strategic vision for rail
  • the planning and operating environment for rail
  • a 10-year programme of indicative investments and benefits, roles and responsibilities for the entities involved
  • funding sources and principles, and
  • a plan to monitor the performance of rail against the Government objectives.

We are working to develop the New Zealand Rail Plan for release later in 2019.

Taking a longer-term view of the role rail will play in the transport system will give cities, regions and businesses (and KiwiRail) the certainty they need to plan for the future.