South Island highways update – 1:45pm Tuesday 15 November
NZ Transport Agency contractors have been working urgently throughout the day to assess the safety of key South Island state highway routes, clear slips and safely re-open roads as soon as conditions allow.
SH6 is currently closed from Rai Valley to Renwick due to surface flooding. Water levels on the road are receding and contractors are aiming to re-open the road by 3pm.
With heavy rains and strong winds affecting many areas and continuing aftershocks contributing to the on-going risk of further slips and rockfalls in several parts of the South Island, the Transport Agency is urging people to avoid non-essential travel and to drive with extra caution.
The Transport Agency is working urgently with Kaikoura District Council to open the inland road (route 70) between Culverden and Kaikoura. Crews have been working from both ends since early this morning to clear slips and assess the road and structures for damage, and contractors will do everything possible to have this route safely open by the weekend.
State Highway 1, Picton to Blenheim/Seddon is now open but Seddon to Cheviot remains closed. Cheviot to Christchurch is open.
An alternative inland state highway route was re-established on Monday afternoon between Picton and Christchurch, via Murchison and the Lewis Pass, re-establishing access for local communities and allowing large trucks access through to Christchurch.
While the Lewis Pass route is open, the NZTA is advising that some sections are reduced to a single lane, with active traffic management in place. Everyone is asked to take extra care with some sections of the highway down to single-lane and speed restrictions in place.
With the closure of State Highway 1, higher volumes of traffic are expected on SH7 and everyone needs to allow extra time for their journey. People should allow an additional 90 minutes to two hours for the journey between Christchurch and Picton on the alternate route - average journey times between Christchurch and Picton are currently expected to take seven and a half hours. Convenient fuel, café and toilet stops are 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. The road is open for light vehicles only, and under escort by contractors.
Transport Agency Highway Manager Neil Walker says an urgent priority for the Agency is undertaking a detailed assessment of the scale and complexity of the large slips which are blocking SH1 on either side of Kaikoura.
He says in assessing sites blocked by large slips, the safety of the public, as well as Transport Agency staff and contractors is paramount, particularly with the continuing strong aftershocks and the risk of further slips and rockfalls.
“The priority is to re-connect communities which have been cut off by slips and the Transport Agency is working urgently with other agencies such as Police, KiwiRail and local authorities to coordinate efforts ensuring that people are transported out of closed areas safely, and roads or alternative routes are open and safe to use as soon as possible.”
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.