Convoys of buses for visitors/tourists and essential services vehicles** into and out of Milford Sound Piopiotahi have worked reasonably well this week.
“We appreciate that we cannot meet everyone’s needs exactly but we need to strike a middle ground for now,” says the Transport Agency’s Milford Road Alliance Manager Kevin Thompson.
“It is great to see the businesses in Milford Sound Piopiotahi reactivated with the visitors.
“But it is important that we continue to work on the highway between the convoys and ensure it is safe after each convoy for the next trip.
“We continue to monitor that these convoy times are working for the tourism industry and will review as needed.”
Bus tickets for visitors getting on board a convoy are available in Te Anau and at Knobs Flat, between Te Anau and Milford Sound, (SH94).
The weather forecast for the Homer Tunnel area is for showers over the weekend and potentially heavy rain on Monday, 2 March. To date all the convoys have departed and returned largely on schedule despite some rain says Mr Thompson.
If there are concerns that heavy rain is reactivating slips, convoys will be stopped.
Mr Thompson reiterated that people wanting to get into Milford need to book a bus through a tourism operator to be part of the convoy.
“Private vehicle drivers and people in their own cars or campervans cannot currently use the highway since the early February storm.”
The convoys including buses started a week ago (21 February). They have run every day since then and will continue seven days a week so long as weather and road repairs permit them, he says.
People are encouraged to catch a bus (minimum six-seater) through a tourism operator from Te Anau or Queenstown.
There is an approved adventure tourism operators-only convoy limited to ten places at 8 am, inwards only. (Ie narrower criteria than essential services and not including any large buses.)
The 10 am, midday and mid-afternoon convoys inwards line up with the boat operators’ timetable in the Sound. These are the convoys which will include buses.
The departure point (known as “Chains On”) is closer to the Homer Tunnel on its western side, reducing the distance to travel in convoy.
The start point of East Gate, near the Hollyford Road intersection, also helps reduce the convoy length on the Te Anau side.
|Convoys into Milford Sound||Convoy start-point||Convoys out of Milford Sound||Convoy start-point|
|8am (approved adventure tourism operators only)||East Gate (near Hollyford Rd intersection)|
|10am||East Gate||10.45am||Chains on*|
|Midday||East Gate||1.15 pm||Chains on*|
|2.45pm||East Gate||4pm||Chains on*|
*Chains On is midway between the Homer Tunnel and the Chasm on the western side of the tunnel. Combined with the shift at the other stopping/ assembly point to East Gate, near the Hollyford Road intersection, these two start and end points have shortened the convoy journey from Thursday this week.
** Who is eligible for the essential services convoys?
Vehicles and drivers who qualify as essential services include people transporting the following items: Fuel, food, freight, septic/ rubbish disposal, trades goods. Also contractors, staff of Milford Sound businesses in vans or coaches, commercial fishing industry and associated trades, air traffic control personnel.
For background on SH94, the Milford Road, including convoy operating guidelines, see this web page: www.nzta.govt.nz/sh94-milford-road
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