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Making Southland’s Homer Tunnel even safer

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Work has started on a $25m safety upgrade of Southland’s Homer Tunnel on SH94 providing a welcome economic boost for the Te Anau and Milford Sound Piopiotahi communities, says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

In July this year, the Government announced the funding for this project to improve the safety and resilience of the Homer Tunnel, which opened in 1953.

­Waka Kotahi’s Milford Road Alliance has made a start on $3million worth of “shovel ready” smaller safety improvements that came out of recommendations of an investigation into a car fire in the tunnel at the beginning of 2020.

Work completed so far includes an upgraded tunnel power system and lighting and fitting new speakers inside the tunnel to communicate with people caught there in an emergency. A new protected duct is also being built along the full 1.2km length of the tunnel to protect cabling, fibre and other systems during a fire, says Waka Kotahi System Manager Graeme Hall.

Over the next year, an extra lane will be built at the eastern tunnel traffic signal (back toward the tunnel control building) for better management of traffic during winter, and more sophisticated in-tunnel vehicle detection systems installed.

The remaining $22million safety funding will pay for one of the following: pedestrian refuges (for people to escape a fire), forced ventilation system (to reduce a fire spread) or a deluge system (to limit and contain a fire).*

“Whatever option is chosen it will be large and complex work needing significant design, consenting and other approvals, and is likely to be delivered over a two to three-year period,” says Mr Hall.

One of the specially designed speakers that have been installed inside the Homer Tunnel.

*Updated 25 November 2021: Waka Kotahi has carried out further investigations and found the $3m package will improve fire life safety in the tunnel enabling the remaining $22million to fund work to improve avalanche and rockfall safety at the tunnel.

Homer Tunnel safety improvements project page

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