Cantabrians travelling north for the coming long weekend should build some extra time into their journeys as many people will be heading away for the break.
NZ Transport Agency Journey Manager, Tresca Forrester, says the Canterbury Anniversary Day traffic would create some busy times from Thursday afternoon and again returning to Christchurch on Sunday.
People heading to Kaikoura should be aware of all the work underway along several sections of State Highway 1 (SH1). Ms Forrester noted that there are two ways to access Kaikoura – both routes currently taking around three hours.
Motorists can either take the Inland Road (Route 70) via Waiau and Mt Lyford which is open 24/7, or SH1 from the south which has a regular open/closed schedule, but is closed every night from 8pm-7am.
Travel time from south of the Hundalees to Kaikoura is about an hour. There are several sections of one lane and manual stop/go control where the damaged gabion retaining walls which support the road are being repaired. Overall travel time between Christchurch and Kaikoura is around three hours on the highway south.
Drivers heading into Hanmer Springs may experience a short delay past the Waiau Ferry Bluff. This area has had significant rock falls following the November 2016 earthquake and wet weather earlier this year. The North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery’s (NCTIR) crews have been stabilising the rock wall, including installing rock bolts and mesh and repairing the gabion retaining walls supporting the road.
Allow up to seven hours to travel this route, particularly if planning to catch a ferry or meet another destination deadline. There are multiple worksites and stop/go on this route as part of the spring/summer ramp-up on repairs and maintenance, as well as ongoing safety and resilience works for the $60 million improvement programme.
Ms Forrester says Cantabrians travelling north who are familiar with this route, but haven’t travelled it since the earthquake, could be surprised by the number of improvements. These include previously narrow areas being widened, more pullover areas, and safer bridge approaches. However, they also need to be aware of the four-fold increase in traffic, including heavy freight, which adds to travel times.
“As NCTIR continues on track to reopen SH1 Picton to Christchurch on 15 December, there is a significant ‘big push’ to get the road in the best possible condition by that date. We thank road users and local residents for their ongoing support and patience while this essential work is being done.”
She urged all motorists to travel prepared, allow plenty of time, drive courteously and for slower traffic to use safe passing opportunities to pull over and let faster traffic pass.