Kaikōura earthquake recovery transport project: the end is in sight


The end is in sight for the highway and rail rebuild along SH1 north and south of Kaikōura, as well as the inland route to Waiau. The rebuild of the transport networks followed the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in November, 2016.

The NZ Transport Agency, KiwiRail and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance, working on the reinstatement of the highway and the Main North Line, say the majority of construction should finish late 2020 with NCTIR’s handover work wrapping up in December 2020.

Steve Mutton, Chair of the NCTIR Board, says the project is now moving into its final phase.

“A work package for the remainder of the work was scoped earlier this year and has now been agreed by the Transport Agency and KiwiRail. These new projects are on the Inland Road (Route 70) between Waiau and Kaikōura and on SH1 north and south of the town,” he says.

“We’ve been on the ground in Kaikōura since the earthquake in 2016 and have come a long way. The road and rail were reopened in 2017, but since then we’ve been making many temporary fixes permanent. We are working to leave a safer and more resilient transport network for people to enjoy and travel on safely for generations to come.”

Currently the teams are constructing six safe stopping areas [PDF, 948 KB], following the completion of the first at Ōhau Point last October, and making safety improvements to the route such as realigning sections of road, installing double centre lines to keep traffic further apart and installing safety barriers. Work is also underway at a number of sites to further improve the resilience of the Main North Line.

“The works will be delivered within the original Crown-funded budget of $1.2 billion set in July 2017. The Transport Agency and KiwiRail are prioritising the remaining work to make these transport corridors safer and more reliable.”

Total spend remaining for the NCTIR programme is close to $260 million.

Temporary bypass in place currently at Jacob’s Ladder north of Kaikōura

Temporary bypass in place currently at Jacob’s Ladder north of Kaikōura. This area suffered a double whammy after ex-cyclone-Gita dumped 200,000 cubic metres of material across the road early in 2018.

NCTIR is working with the Transport Agency and Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura on design elements to ensure the cultural and historical importance of Kaikōura is reflected in the structures being built on the state highway. Landscape design work is also underway to help integrate the safe stopping areas into the coastal environment.

“We’ve recently reached the milestone of five million work hours on the Kaikōura earthquake recovery and many of our team have been here since the start,” says Mr Mutton. “I’d like to acknowledge all the women and men who worked those hours in all sorts of conditions and those who continue to come to work each day to help build a uniquely special transport corridor for the people of Kaikōura and its many visitors. We believe it will provide a benefit for generations to come and it is a project we can all be proud of.”

Chair of the NCTIR Board and Programme Director NCTIR

Steve Mutton, chair of the NCTIR Board and Tony Gallagher, Programme Director NCTIR, at the Peketa tunnel south of Kaikōura.

Working in wet, chilly, salty conditions, August 2017

Working in wet, chilly, salty conditions, August 2017.

Some of the milestones for the next phase:

  • SH1 Improvement works complete – October 2020
  • Recovery/Resilience works complete – October 2020
  • Rail works complete – September 2020
  • Inland Road (Route 70) works complete – August 2020

Some of the project milestones already achieved:

  • Final weld of the railway on 8 August 2017
  • Rail reopened for night time freight on 15 September 2017
  • Kaikōura Marina reopened on 14 November 2017
  • Road reopened to the public 15 December 2017
  • Road reopened 24/7 on 30 April 2018
  • Rail opened for 24/7 freight trains on 1 October 2018
  • Raramai road tunnels reopened to two-way traffic on 19 October 2018
  • Safe stopping area at Ōhau Point opened to the public on 20 October 2018
  • Coastal Pacific passenger rail services resumed on 1 December 2018
  • Parititahi road tunnels reopened to two-way traffic on 21 December 2018.


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