By 1905 the national railway network was quite extensive, with lines linking many farming regions with their local port. The network reached its greatest extent in the 1950s, and most rural areas were connected with the main centres. However by 2008 the railways had shrunk considerably. Many branch lines had closed, as road freighting became a more cost-effective way of transporting farm produce and supplies.
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Source: James Watson, Links: a history of transport and New Zealand society. Wellington: Ministry of Transport, 1996, pp. 103, 175–176; TranzRail Network Map May 2008.