NZ Transport Agency contractors resumed work early this morning to assess the safety of key South Island state highway routes, clear slips and safely re-open roads as soon as conditions allow.
Controlled access for local residents and emergency services was restored yesterday on SH1 south from Seddon to Ward, and north from Cheviot to Goose Bay.
Transport Agency Highways Manager Neil Walker says work today will remain squarely focussed on restoring access to communities which have been cut off by damage from Monday’s quake and establishing safe and reliable alternative routes.
“We’re back on site this morning working urgently with Kaikoura District Council contractors to open the inland road (route 70) between Culverden and Kaikoura. Crews have been working from both ends since Monday to clear slips and assess the road and structures for damage, including aerial bridge inspections being conducted by helicopter. The route is now open to all vehicles from Culverden to Waiau, and crews are doing everything possible to have the route safely open through to Kaikoura by the weekend.
“The alternative inland state highway route from Picton to Christchurch, via Murchison and the Lewis Pass has been open since late Monday afternoon. This will likely be the main state highway route from Christchurch to Picton for several months, given the amount of work which will be required to clear the large slips which have closed SH1.”
With the closure of SH1, Mr Walker says the Lewis Pass route will be carrying higher volumes of traffic, and people are urged to allow extra time for their journeys. People should allow an additional 90 minutes to two hours for the journey between Christchurch and Picton on the Lewis Pass route – average journey times between Christchurch and Picton are currently expected to take seven and a half hours. Fuel, food and toilet stops are available along the route at Culverden, Springs Junction and Murchison.
State Highway 7A, giving access to Hanmer Springs from State Highway 7, re-opened at 7am today after being closed overnight due to the risk of further rockfalls.
With continuing aftershocks contributing to the on-going risk of further slips and rockfalls in several parts of the South Island, people are urged to drive with extra caution and comply with all temporary speed restrictions.
The Transport Agency thanks all road users for being patient as many people’s travel plans are disrupted and many people are again managing their homes, work and lives amidst the aftershocks.
People can call 0800 44 44 49 for updates and the Transport Agency’s website and social media accounts will be also updated as more information is available.