Interislander to replace ferries with rail-ready fleet

The Interislander's Kaitaki ferry.
The Interislander's Kaitaki ferry. Photo credit: Getty

Kiwirail has confirmed plans to replace its Interislander fleet with two new larger, rail-enabled ferries.

The new ships will carry more freight, cars and passengers than the current three fleets: Kaitaki, Kaiarahi and the Aratere. At this stage, Interislander will still make up to six sailings a day.

Kiwirail acting chief executive Todd Moyle told Newshub the move comes after a two-year consultation process looking at different theories that would provide a service for passengers, truck and cars and the rail market. 

"It's a super important decision for New Zealand," Mr Moyle says.

"They're effectively the State Highway 1 across the Cook Strait which looks at taking passengers, trucks and cars and rail freight.

"We had to take the option to deliver to all three markets."

Kiwirail says having a secure and resilient transport link across Cook Strait is critical for freight flows, tourism and for communities.

The current fleet is around 30 years-old and only one ferry, the Aratere, can currently take rail.

The Kaitaki and Kaiarahi have a system where containers are loaded off railway wagons onto trailers, then driven onto the ferries. 

The new ferries are estimated to cost upwards of around $200 million each.

KiwiRail is aiming to have the new ships up and running by 2024.