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Page last updated on Wednesday 22 November 2017

Frequently asked questions

On this page you will find frequently asked questions on:

Alternatively you can download the frequently asked questions about SH1 and the alternate route [PDF, 119 KB]

State Highway 1

  •   What will the road look like and be like to drive on?

    While SH1 will reopen before Christmas, the rebuild work will not be completed and some areas will still be construction sites. There will be some unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go at remaining works sites along the route. SH1 to the north of Kaikōura will look quite different in many places; new sections of highway have been built, along with a new bridge at Irongate and the road has been moved closer to the sea at some locations. At this stage, we expect planned closures will be needed along the two worst affected sections of SH1 to the north and south of Kaikoura, to safely complete remaining work. There are likely to be speed restrictions and no stopping zones along the worst affected areas to the north and south of Kaikoura.

    Before the road opens in December we will share photos and video via so that people can see what SH1 looks like before they drive the route.

  •   Will the road be open 24/7?

    No. Parts of the road north and south of Kaikōura will be closed overnight for some months after the reopening as a safety precaution for the public. The risk from rock falls and slips will be managed while resilience work is completed.

    On 20 November the NZ Transport Agency confirmed the initial hours of operation for SH1 north and south of Kaikōura when it reopens in December will be 7am until 8.30pm.

    The section north of Kaikōura will be closed at night between Clarence and Mangamaunu. South of Kaikōura the night closure will be between Goose Bay and Peketa. Crews will drive through both closure sites before 7am each day to ensure the road is safe for opening and another drive through will be carried out each  evening to ensure all traffic has cleared the road before nightfall. Road closure points will be manned 24/7.

    It’s important to note that the rail corridor is closely monitored and will be able to run trains at night because it is a controlled network. KiwiRail’s night-time freight services also allow rebuild work to continue where needed during the day.

  •   How long will it take me to drive SH1, compared to the alternate route (via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, through Lewis Pass)?

    SH1 reopening gives drivers two good options for travel around the top of the South Island – you need to decide which route is best for your needs.

    At this stage it is estimated that it will take a minimum of 5.5 hours in normal conditions to drive from Picton to Christchurch on SH1 (one hour longer than pre-earthquake). However, you should allow plenty of extra time as delays are likely and can be caused by various reasons such as heavy traffic, a crash or bad weather.

    The ‘alternate route’ (via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, through Lewis Pass) remains a good option for travel around the top of the South Island and is currently taking a minimum of 6.5 hours in normal conditions, although you should also allow plenty of time in case of delay on this route. There are ongoing improvements being made to this route as part of the Government’s $60 million package which continue over the summer season.

    Journey time estimates are as accurate as they can be, based on the Transport Agency’s constant monitoring of the network and ongoing assessment of traffic patterns. However, this is a unique situation where it’s difficult to predict how the traffic will split across both routes. Unexpected events such as a crash, high volumes of traffic, ongoing wet weather or seismic activity can cause delays so it’s important that travellers allow plenty of time in case something happens.

    This journey time information could change. You should regularly check the Transport Agency’s dedicated web page - – which will be updated frequently as we approach the opening. It will be a hub for all the information you need about planned activity on both routes and links to the real-time travel information which should be regularly checked. Also check at least two hours before you travel and when you’re at key decision points on your route.

    If planning to drive on SH1, y ou should allow enough time to take the alternate route in case SH1 is closed unexpectedly.

  •   Will there be ongoing work along SH1 during the holiday season and into 2018?

    Yes, although NCTIR work crews will also be taking a Christmas break you will be driving through construction sites at some points on the route both north and south of Kaikoura.

    The number of work sites will be reduced between 15 December and 7 January to help with traffic flow over the holiday period but work will ramp up from 8 January 2018 to bring the road corridor back to its pre-earthquake condition and to also deliver the Government’s $231 million improvements package. Infrastructure and amenities on the 60km section of State Highway 1 between Clarence and Oaro are being improved which will ultimately provide a higher level of service on the road for people living in the area, visitors to the region, and those travelling through.

  •   How reliable will the road be and should I consider using the alternate route to avoid missing my ferry/flight

    You have two choices for travel in the upper South Island and will need to decide which route is best for you. 

    The alternate route via Lewis Pass currently has consistent travel times of about 6.5 hours between Picton and Christchurch although you should allow extra time in case of delays. If you need to make a ferry, flight or other booking you may decide to take the alternate route as it has a more reliable journey time. 

    We are rebuilding SH1 to be safer through the worst affected sections. If there is a lot of rain or another significant event, we may have to close the road for short periods of time. It’s important to remember, the safety of those using the highway and working on the road will always be our top priority.

    We also expect traffic volumes to be high during the Christmas season and this is expected to make travel times slower on both routes.

    You should keep checking the website to make sure you have the most up to date information at least two hours before you travel and when you’re on your journey. Any planned closure information will be available on the website as soon as it is available later in the year which may help when planning journey dates and times. 

    Whichever route you choose to travel, please allow plenty of time in case of delays so you can get to your destination safely. 

  •   What is the alternate route if I plan to use SH1 but it is closed?

    Heading south from Picton to Christchurch:

    If SH1 north of Kaikōura had to close, road users heading south from Picton would need to join SH63 and follow the alternate route via Lewis Pass to Christchurch which takes 6.5 hours in normal conditions but allow extra time as delays are likely.

    If road users were in Kaikōura planning to head south and SH1 south of Kaikōura had to close, they would need to travel from Kaikōura on the Inland Road (Route 70) to Culverden and then go south on SH7 and SH1 to Christchurch.

    Heading north from Christchurch to Picton:

    If SH1 north or south of Kaikōura had to close, road users in Christchurch heading straight to Picton would need to travel on the alternate route by joining SH7 at Waipara and continuing via SH65, SH6 and SH63 through Lewis Pass.

    Kaikōura is open for business and even if SH1 had to close, you can access Kaikōura via the Inland Road (Route 70) from Culverden.

  •   What driving advice should drivers follow on SH1?

    Allow plenty of time in case of delays. Be prepared with food, water, and a fully charged cell phone.

    For everyone’s safety, strictly adhere to all road signage and speed restrictions. Follow any instructions by road crew. It’s important to ‘drive to the conditions’ and that means more than just the weather. It includes driving in an appropriate way for the road you’re on, the vehicle you’re in, the other traffic around you, and your level of experience.

    Be patient, cautious and courteous. The road conditions will be unfamiliar to many drivers so a little bit of patience will go a long way.

    Keep fresh by taking breaks, and support businesses in the local communities on the route.

  •   Will there be opportunities to take pictures and view the work that’s been done?

    Initially when SH1 opens over the holiday period the priority is connecting communities and keeping traffic moving. Traffic will be at its peak during the holidays and delays are likely.

    We understand that some motorists will be interested in getting a closer look at the work that’s been done to reinstate the coastal corridor but drivers must drive at a safe speed and only pull over at safe locations so they don’t affect the flow of traffic.

    Potentially a list of safe stopping locations will be provided via if appropriate later in the year.

    There will be areas where there is no stopping (where there is the most damage) and these will need to be observed to keep everyone safe.

    We recommend stopping off at communities along the route to support them.

  •   Will I be able to cycle along SH1?

    Yes. Cyclists will be able to cycle along the road where they did pre-earthquake; however, they must obey all signs and crew instructions.

    At present, the Safety Officer on duty is responsible for deciding whether the environment is safe and suitable for cyclists to use the route.

  •   Will I be able to take the train?

    KiwiRail is working hard to get the track ready for passenger trains but they won’t be running until mid-2018. The Main North Line between Blenheim and Christchurch is now open to freight trains in a limited capacity at night so that the rebuild of the road and rail can continue during the day. The internationally acclaimed Coastal Pacific tourism experience will be up and running when the rail line is fully complete and all of the speed restrictions are lifted.


Alternate route (state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, via Lewis Pass)

  •   What is it like to drive the alternate Picton to Christchurch route?

    Travelling the picturesque alternate route (via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7, through Lewis Pass) between Picton and Christchurch takes on average 6.5 hours (in normal conditions) but allow extra time as delays are likely. Journey time on this route is quite consistent. The alternate route is challenging to drive in places – it is narrow and winding in many places, with single-lane bridges and there are speed restrictions. For everyone’s safety, strictly adhere to all road signage and speed restrictions.

    Drivers need to be patient, cautious and courteous – if needed, pull over and let traffic behind you pass when it is safe to do so to prevent drivers becoming frustrated and making poor overtaking decisions. Slow down, keep left and remember you need to share the road and take joint responsibility to ensure everyone gets to their destination safely this holiday season.

    Do not drive when you’re tired; tired drivers are slower to react, make poor judgement decisions and find it harder to concentrate. There are rest stops with fuel, food, coffee and toilets at Culverden, Springs Junction, Murchison and St Arnaud.

    Take your time: stop for regular breaks at towns along the route and make the journey part of your holiday.

    Be prepared for unexpected delays with food, water, and a fully charged cell phone.

  •   When SH1 reopens will the alternate route roads go back to normal – no more worksites and delays?

    Not immediately as there will be works sites along the route in the lead up to Christmas and into the New Year as the Transport Agency works to improve the safety and resilience of the route as part of the Government’s $60m package of improvements. The investment includes  resealing, repairing and strengthening the roads; road widening through narrow or winding sections; pull-over areas and slow vehicle bays for trucks, and bailey bridges.

    There will also be a summer road and roadside maintenance programme which ramps up on all state highways during the dry weather.

    As part of the Safe Roads programme work will begin in February to improve road and roadside safety on State Highway 7 between Waipara and Waikari. Improved safety features will include side barriers, rumble strips, upgrade of existing barriers on three bridges, improved signage and high performance road markings along the whole route.

    It’s important to remember that all of this work on the alternate route is helping to create a safer and more resilient transport system.



  •   Will SH1 be safe to drive?

    Safety is the number one priority and the road will not reopen unless it can operate safely. Crews working on the road will be monitoring work sites and traffic and ensuring that any issues are dealt with quickly.

  •   If there is an earthquake while I am driving on SH1 what should I do?

    If you are on SH1 and are driving through one of the work sites when there is an earthquake you must follow road crew instructions at all times.
    The Official New Zealand Road Code advice about driving during an earthquake is as follows:

    In a severe earthquake driving can be very difficult because the road may be shaking or moving up and down beneath you.

    If you think that an earthquake is happening while you're driving, you should:

    • pull over and stop
    • stay inside your vehicle until the shaking stops. Your vehicle will provide you with some protection against falling objects.

    After the earthquake:

    • if power lines have fallen onto your vehicle, stay inside it until help arrives
    • if you continue driving straight after the earthquake, be on the lookout for slips or other road damage and obstacles
    • turn on your radio and listen for news about possible road closures and other information.