KiwiRail is in the early stages of planning to replace the current fleet of three ferries with two new, large rail-enabled ferries from 2024. Our current ferries need to be replaced due to their age. We also need to accommodate future growth in passenger numbers and freight volumes.

Why new ferries?

KiwiRail is progressing plans to replace the current fleet of three ferries with two new, larger rail-enabled ferries from 2024. Our current ferries need to be replaced due to their age and we’re planning for future growth in passenger numbers and freight volumes.

This project represents a transformational investment in critical infrastructure that also provides an iconic New Zealand experience. This once-in-a-generation investment is expected to generate significant tourism, economic and environmental benefits for the whole of New Zealand.

Key project features

The key components of the project include procuring two new sister ships and upgrading both the Wellington and Waitohi Picton ferry terminals.
The new ships will be 220 metres long, compared to the current 180 metres. They will provide a maximum capacity of up to 45% more people and freight than the current fleet. While we won't require all this capacity immediately, it gives us room to grow and meet future demand.

About the new ferries

The new ferries will be bigger, cleaner and more modern than the current fleet.

They are expected to cater for 30 years’ of freight and passenger growth, carrying twice as many passengers as the current three ship fleet, 300 per cent more rail wagons and almost double the number of trucks and other vehicles.

The new ferries will be cleaner and more efficient, supporting KiwiRail’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050. We estimate that from day-one the new ferries will reduce the Interislander’s emissions by 40 per cent.

The ferries will be powered by a diesel electric hybrid system that is much more fuel efficient and produces significantly lower CO2 emissions. The power generation plant will also be future-proofed so KiwiRail can adapt it to new, more eco-friendly fuel sources as they become available.

The ferries will run on battery power for the last part of each journey and can use either battery or shore power while at the berth, which means they will be much quieter and cleaner than the current fleet.

Fitted out with the latest propulsion systems, they will produce less wake energy than the Kaitaiki does currently, even though they will be much larger. This reduces their impact on the seabed.


The new terminal design

Proposals to manage community impacts


The new Interislander terminal building will service both rail and ferry passengers. We’re still working through the size requirements of the new terminal and are exploring both two and three storey options. The terminal will offer a modern customer experience with state-of-the-art check-in.

The new wharf will be 280 metres long, compared to the current wharves that are 160 metres and 186 metres long.

Other works include construction of a seawall and new jetties. The existing jetties will be demolished and we are exploring options for new jetties.


Rail corridor

Sections of the rail corridor may need to be widened and could encroach closer to some adjacent properties. In that event, we may put in place acoustic walls to reduce noise.



Bigger ships mean longer trains. A key option being considered is to build a bridge over the rail line at Dublin Street. This would allow road users to avoid wait times of up to 60 minutes when trains are coming on or off the ferries. An overbridge may require the closure of Market Street meaning some people would have to take alternative routes and their journeys could be up to one minute longer.

The other significant road transport change being explored is to close Broadway at the level crossing and create a cul-de-sac. This would improve safety at the complex intersection but increase journey times for some.

The diagram shows the proposed layout of the new terminal and changes to the rail corridor and roading network being considered to mitigate the impacts of the new ships.

Considering the land transport implications

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency with KiwiRail and Port Marlborough are jointly investigating the transport network adjacent to the port. The investigation will consider how introduction of the larger ships will affect the traffic and whether further improvements are needed.

Key considerations will be the access route to the port, walking and cycling impacts, safety, increased wait times at level crossings and other impacts on journey times.

The roading changes are subject to a joint transport investigation. We invite you to share your views on how you travel in this area, via the link below. Feedback closes on Tuesday 3rd November.