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The state-owned rail operator has announced it will be "building capacity" to meet rising demand, with a re-brand for its three Tranz-Scenic trains and the Interislander ferry service under the new name "Great Journeys of New Zealand".
In a response to questions, KiwiRail told the Greymouth Star it would not add further carriages to the Tranz Alpine due to capacity restrictions associated with the Otira Tunnel.
"Any increase in capacity would require additional services. There are no plans for that at this stage," a spokesman said yesterday.
The lack of space on the tourist train has been flagged for several years.
In the peak summer period it often overruns the Greymouth Railway Station platform.
Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn was flabbergasted at news the tunnel was now a reason not to expand the current train.
KiwiRail had previously said it was a question of investing in more carriages, Mr Kokshoorn said.
"They’ve never put the Otira Tunnel up as a constraint for more carriages. This is a new revelation to me and we need to get to the bottom of it, because Coasters are very reliant on the Tranz Alpine to bring tourists in."
It was a particular concern for Greymouth as the train’s "hub".
"We’d be disappointed that the Otira Tunnel would be now put up as a reason to not do it."
The Tranz Alpine service closed down for months in 2013, to mitigate the fire risk in the tunnel.
West Coast economic development officer Kevin Stratful said constraints on freight services to the region through Otira were well known but the impact on passenger train capacity was new.
He was due to meet KiwiRail to discuss the train and he would be asking why it would not want to invest in more capacity.
- Brendon McMahon