In 1993 New Zealand Rail Ltd was privatised and renamed Tranz Rail in 1995, with CityRail rebranded Tranz Metro. The Auckland Regional Council bought the Auckland CityRail fleet, contracting New Zealand Rail to run it for 10 years. Tranz Rail did not bid for the contract when it expired in 2003, and these services are now operated by Veolia.
Tranz Metro was created as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tranz Rail in 2003, which announced its intention to sell Tranz Metro. Stagecoach New Zealand and the Greater Wellington Regional Council announced their intention to bid for the Wellington operations, but both were barred by the Commerce Commission from doing so.
In 2004 Toll Holdings of Australia bought a majority shareholding in Tranz Rail and renamed the company Toll NZ, and on 1 July 2008 it was bought (less the Tranz Link trucking and distribution arm) by the government and renamed KiwiRail.
The Wellington services are operated under contract from Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC). It subsidises the operation and any capital improvements to the stations and rolling stock. Typically 60% of that subsidy comes from central government through the NZ Transport Agency (formerly Land Transport New Zealand), which approves such funding after careful analysis of the economics and net benefits, the remainder coming from the GWRC. Public consultation in 2005-2006 has resulted in some changes of emphasis in the new contract, which runs for ten years from June 2006 . The September 2006 fare rises and section changes were stated to part-pay for a major upgrade of trains and facilities over the next few years in conjunction with regional bus service improvements.
Tranz Metro operates five lines:-
| Travel time|
|Johnsonville||Blue||Johnsonville||10.5||21||A narrow and winding route through the hills of the northern suburbs of Wellington. Built by the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company, it was part of the North Island Main Trunk until bypassed in 1937 by the Tawa Flat deviation.|
|Paraparaumu||Green||Paraparaumu||48.3||56||Along the North Island Main Trunk through Porirua.|
|Hutt Valley||Red||Upper Hutt||32.4||45||Along the Wairarapa Line through Waterloo in Lower Hutt to Upper Hutt, the edge of the Wellington urban area.|
|Melling||Orange||Melling||13.5||19||Along the Wairarapa Line to Petone, then along the Hutt Valley's western edge. Part of the Wairarapa Line until that line was diverted in 1955 along the eastern side of the valley.|
|Wairarapa||Yellow||Masterton||91.0||90||Diesel-hauled along the Wairarapa Line to Masterton, the largest town in the Wairarapa. Limited stops between Wellington and Upper Hutt, marketed as the Wairarapa Connection.|
Until 2001 Tranz Metro operated the Capital Connection service between Palmerston North and Wellington. On the sale of 50% of Tranz Scenic to directors of the West Coast Railway (subsequently repurchased by Toll) it was transferred to Tranz Scenic, where it remains.
Electric multiple units (EMUs) are the main type of rolling stock used by Tranz Metro on its electrified services. The multiple units often operate in single during off-peak hours, while during peak hours, they can be connected together to form trains up to four units long.
There are two models of EMUs currently in use:-
In 2010, thirty-five brand new FM class or "Matangi" electric multiple units will be introduced to provide extra capacity and replace the aging DM class units.
The Wairarapa Connection services uses SW class carriages. Originally of British Rail Mark 2 origin, they were extensively refurbished and were introduced into service in 2007. There are eighteen carriages in total; three 37-seater generator carriages and three 37-seater servery carriages form the basis of the three carriage sets, with the remaining twelve 64-seater standard carriages distributed among each of the three sets. Each Wairarapa Connection carriage set is usually hauled by DC class diesel-electric locomotives, occasionally DX class and even DFT class locomotives allocated from KiwiRail’s locomotive fleet.
In 2006 Toll Rail's Hillside Engineering won the contract from Greater Wellington Regional Council to rebuild British Rail Mark 2 carriages purchased some years ago by Toll's predecessor, Tranz Rail. On 14 May 2007, the first four of the 18 new carriages entered service, and all are in use, providing a major upgrade to the comfort, safety and reliability of the Wairarapa service. There are three nominally six-car sets, each with four 64-seat SW class passenger cars, one 37-seat SWS class servery car and one 37-seat SWG generator car. They replace carriages built in 1937-43.
GWRC has purchased six former British Rail carriages, which are under refurbishment at the Hillside Workshops. They will be in use by the end of 2008 to provide a six-car express train with an EO electric locomotive at each end, reconditioned at Hutt Workshops. Longer term, they may provide extra capacity on the Wairarapa Line.
On 22 September 2006 Greater Wellington announced that it would begin the tender process for new FM class electric multiple units (EMU) to replace the DM/D class English Electric EMUs by 2010; reported as 29 new units or 58 "electric carriages". GWRC has formed Greater Wellington Rail Limited to purchase the EMUs. They are to be built in Korea by a consortium of Rotem and Mitsui, which was announced as the preferred supplier in July 2007. The other two shortlisted tenderers were Bombardier (Australia) and CAF (Spain).
On 9 February 2007 Land Transport New Zealand announced funding for a further 12 units , bringing the total rolling stock order up to 70 carriages, or 35 units. Other announcements have referred to the order for 70 units: .
The new electric trains are to be called "Matangi" (pronounced Mar-tongue-ee), Maori for "wind"
Greater Wellington has undertaken a transportation study of the needs for the corridor from Wellington to its northern suburbs (including Johnsonville) and beyond. The initial submissions report supports further investment in commuter rail transport, specifically in new rolling stock to replace the aging English Electric units. This investment is to be made within "the first ten years" of the plan set out in the report.
The Western Corridor Transportation Study recommended extensive upgrades of the passenger rail service between Wellington and the Kapiti Coast, including possible extension of electrification to a new station at Lindale or Waikanae, extending the double track from MacKays Crossing to Raumati, a new station at Raumati, and additional rolling stock so that service intervals could be increased to 15 minutes at peak times.
In July 2007 the Greater Wellington Regional Council announced that it would invest $500 million in rail transport over the proceeding five years. Projects include:
GWRC and ONTRACK will co-ordinate the projects, and provide progress reports to the council and the central Government.