Five carriages have been upgraded with a sixth carriage set to be added in September to support an anticipated increase in passengers.
More carriages are currently being upgraded locally at KiwiRail’s Hutt Workshops with 11 in total eventually able be to be used.
Transport Minister David Parker said the refurbished carriages would tide the service over until brand new hybrid trains were brought onto the network within five years.
“These new, refurbed coaches increase the quality of what people can use but also the quantity.”
The next step, once the hybrid trains arrived, would be increasing the number of Capital Connection services, Parker said.
In terms of what the newly-fitted carriages actually look like inside, they are warm, comfortable and quiet.
They are refurbished with new seats, carpets, tables, bathrooms and a cafe with barista coffee sold on board.
Wheelchair access is available and a special area to store bikes has been included.
People can also expect the ride to be much smoother than before with improved suspension across the carriages.
KiwiRail’s Tracey Goodall said she was pleased to be able to offer a more comfortable service to commuters.
“We’re connecting close to 500 trips a day on our two services, bringing people from Palmerston North, Shannon and Ōtaki to Wellington, the capital in the morning and to go home in the evening.”
Green Party transport spokesperson Julie-Anne Genter said her party campaigned hard to save the Capital Connection and was glad to see Wednesday’s milestone.
But she hoped to see the government work towards making public transport more affordable.
Currently a one way ticket from Palmerston North on the Capital Connection is $35.
“The government has the ability to invest in the services so people can pay lower prices for the fares,” Genter said.
“That’s essential if you want to have a truly accessible transport network that gives people more choices.”
The new Capital Connection carriages will be in service from next Monday.
However, the train will not stop at Shannon because the height difference between the new carriages and the existing platform is a safety risk.
KiwiRail said work to raise the platform at the Shannon stop would be completed within the next few months. - RNZ