A new luxury rail service is being introduced on the route from Picton to Christchurch as part of a $40 million government upgrade.
The funding was announced by the Prime Minister, who was among the first to ride the newly re-opened line after the Coastal Pacific started its engines in Picton this morning.
While freight services have been running for a while, today's rail service marked the first passenger train to run since the Kaikoura earthquake scarred the landscape two years ago.
Catherine Baker, who has been working on the train for eight years, said of the wait, "So long, so long, but we're so happy to have it back".
For Kaikoura resident Pat Edgar, today has also been a long wait – the last time she rode the coastal train route was more than 30 years ago.
Ms Edgar said, "We went for the ballot and I was lucky enough to get one of the seats".
Jacinda Ardern thanked some of the 1700 workers who made the trip possible again, but saved a surprise for the stop-off at Kaikoura.
"Today, I'm pleased to announce that through the Provincial Growth Fund, we'll take the Coastal Pacific journey another level again with a $40 million investment," she said.
"Currently, the Coastal Pacific runs seven months of the year. We're going to make it all year round."
The new service will mean extra carriages, station upgrades, and a premium service is in order.
Kiwirail CEO Todd Moyle said of the service, "It is the scenery that really caps this off, so when you put that together with the Tranz-Alpine, we get those alpine views and snow-capped hilltops and only minutes away, you're on the Kaikoura coastline. It's just spectacular".
Before the Kaikoura quake, the Coastal Pacific brought more than 42,000 passengers into the region each year. The new luxury service hopes to double those numbers in a decade.