Extra patience and care needed on alternate South Island state highway route


The NZ Transport Agency is urging all drivers to exercise extra patience and caution while using the alternative state highway route from Picton to Christchurch, via Murchison and the Lewis Pass.

The alternate state highway route from Picton to Christchurch, via Murchison and the Lewis Pass has been open since late Monday afternoon. 

NZ Transport Agency Regional Performance Manager Pete Connors says 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.

"This is a longer and more challenging route, it is narrow and windy in many places, with several one-lane bridges along the route. We're urging drivers to plan ahead and build in plenty of extra time for their journeys, including time for breaks and rest stops along the way. People should expect the trip from Picton to Christchurch to take at least seven and a half hours. 

"There are speed restrictions in place in several locations, and we are urging all drivers to be especially mindful of their speeds and to be on the lookout for pedestrians and cyclists when driving through the towns and villages along the alternative route. Local residents, including children, will need to be able to access their homes, shops and schools safely, and we need everyone to do their part."

Mr Connors says the Transport Agency and Police are acutely aware of the impact which the significant increase in traffic is having on the communities located along the route, and the safety issues posed for all road users.

Police are increasing visible patrols and enforcement activity along the route, and the Transport Agency is investing additional time and resources to maintain the road to the level required to cope with the significant increase in traffic and ensure the safety of drivers and local residents.

“We have had an expert team of engineers and road managers travelling the Lewis Pass route to determine what improvements can be made so that it can cope with the extra traffic until SH1 is re-opened," Mr Connors says. 

"This is likely to include improvements to the road surface, widening the road in some locations, additional safety and directional signs, providing more opportunities for rest stops and closely managing speeds. A plan will be finalised shortly and any work required will start immediately."

Mr Connors says the Transport Agency will be working closely with Police, trucking companies and local communities to manage the impacts on local residents and businesses.

Advice for road users

  • Build in extra time along this route and take regular breaks. Be aware that it will take a minimum of seven and a half hours to travel from Picton to Christchurch. Stop and use the facilities at key towns along the route.
  • This is now the main freight route in the region - expect more trucks than normal. Share the road and be courteous and patient. 
  • Drive at a safe speed, and slow down in towns and villages along the route. There will be extra police enforcement along the route to keep everyone safe.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected. The earthquake has increased instability in some places. There will be some repair work carried out on this route to widen road shoulders and some speed restrictions could be put in place. 
  • Don’t drive tired, get a good night’s sleep before you drive. 

The most up to date information on road closures and conditions in the region is available here.

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.

South Island updates

To arrange media interviews please call:

Andy Knackstedt
National Media Manager
NZ Transport Agency

T: 04 894 6285 
M: 021 276 3222 
E: andrew.knackstedt@nzta.govt.nz