It is the northern terminus of the Capital Connection long distance commuter train to Wellington and a major stop on the Northern Explorer service between Auckland and Wellington.
With the discontinuation of the Overlander and the introduction of its replacement the Northern Explorer several stops on the Overlander were discontinued; including Levin and Feilding. Palmerston North is now the nearest station for these locations.
The original station was opened on 20 October 1876; see Palmerston North Central railway station. Traffic increased with the opening of the line to Napier via Woodville in 1891, and the station was moved 30 chains (603m) south in March 1891. But it was still a bottleneck, and remained the longest-persisting bottleneck on the Main Trunk until the 1960s. Changes were recommended by Hiley in 1914, a commission in 1916 and the Fay-Raven commission in 1924-25. Construction of the Milson Deviation to shift the line and station northwest and away from the centre of Palmerston North started in May 1926, but was delayed by the depression and World War II, and objections from the local business quarter. Work by the Public Works Department (PWD) was stopped in 1929 by Minister of Works Alfred Ransom and restarted in 1938 by Bob Semple but halted by the war. Finally resumed in 1957 under John McAlpine, the first stage to Milson from the north-east was opened on 22 April 1954. The deviation was opened to Longburn for through goods trains on 27 July 1959. On 21 October 1963 the new station and yards were opened, and all rail traffic removed from the main street and square of Palmerston North. The old line was closed by mid-1965, and the Awapuni station south of the main station on the old route was also closed