It's the end of the line for a number of small North Island towns with the announcement from Toll NZ that the Overlander train will no longer stop at a platform near them.

Toll NZ, which bought out Tranz Rail in 2003, is cutting stops at Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Te Awamutu, Waiouru, Taihape, Otaki and Waikanae in a bid to cut the Auckland to Wellington travel time.

It is the latest in a long line of cutbacks that have changed train travel dramatically in New Zealand over the past 20 to 30 years.

The growth of long-distance bus services and price cuts by airlines have seen train travel struggle to compete.

Last year the Northerner, an overnight train service from Wellington to Auckland made famous by the song Taumarunui On The Main Trunk Line, was axed.

The number of stops has been dramatically reduced over the years and the days of luxurious train travel, complete with a buffet car, are gone.

Toll NZ corporate affairs manager Sue Foley said a review had been conducted to ensure the continued viability of the Overlander, which departs from Auckland daily at 7.25am.

Statistics showed an average of one person a day - and in some cases none - boarded the train at the towns in question and it did not make sense to continue the stops.

She said the Overlander was aimed at the tourism market and Toll NZ wanted to make the journey as comfortable as possible.

The cuts would take about 40 minutes off the trip, with the train now arriving in Wellington at 7.25pm.

"The fewer stops the more enjoyable it is," she said.

"If you are not stopping just to pick up the odd person it makes a difference."

People wanting to catch trains in the areas cut from the schedule would not have far to travel to use the service, said Ms Foley.

Public transport such as buses was readily available.

But for families such as David Joe's, who have been catching the train at the Huntly platform for 20 years, the decision is the end of an era.

Mr Joe, his wife, Gwen, and children have travelled by train to Wellington about three times a year to visit relatives.

"It's not good," Mr Joe said.

"We're not happy about it, but we can't do much about it."

Pam Goodwin, information officer at the Te Awamutu i-SITE Visitor Centre, said the cuts would hurt older people who used the trains and could not drive to Hamilton to catch the service.

"We've had quite a few people ringing up asking what's the story.

"The alternative for them is Otorohanga or Hamilton."

The cuts will take effect from April 10.