Thousands of West Coast-bound rail tourists will have to use buses for nearly two months after a fire took out the showpiece Midland line.

Bridges, rail lines and signal systems between Cass and Springfield were damaged in a scrub fire last weekend.

KiwiRail says the TranzAlpine train won't be back in service until Monday, April 3. More than 17,000 people were booked during that busy time for West Coast tourism.

From Monday, Intercity will operate a daily bus service between Christchurch and Greymouth. However, there will be no pick-ups and drop-offs at Arthurs Pass, just a rest stop.

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Until then, KiwiRail is operating its own bus service for affected passengers. The bus runs according to TranzAlpine's usual timetable.

Full refunds would be offered to affected passengers who chose to cancel and make their own arrangements or use the Intercity service, a KiwiRail spokesman said yesterday.

"A 50 per cent refund will be offered for those that choose to travel on the KiwiRail bus replacement."

Tourism West Coast chief executive Jim Little said it was a shame the closure was during the two busiest months for West Coast tourism.

It would not deter tourists from coming to the Coast altogether, he said.

"It is a damn nuisance because February and March are the two busiest months of the year, but I think with the way things are shaping up at the moment, hopefully the impact will be minimal.

"People still want to come to the Coast. They want to see Punakaiki, they still want to see the glaciers."

The negative impact on Greymouth would be mostly felt by the rental car companies, and the travel centre at the railway station, he said.

He did not expect any impact on Buller tourism.

- Westport News