NZ Transport Agency contractors will resume work at first light tomorrow to assess the safety of key South Island state highway routes and continue clearing slips to safely re-open roads as conditions allow.
An alternative inland state highway route was re-established earlier today between Picton and Christchurch, via Murchison and the Lewis Pass.
NZTA contractors worked urgently throughout the day to assess the safety of bridges and clear slips to safely open the route, re-establishing access for communities and allowing large trucks through to Christchurch.
While the route is open, the NZTA is advising that some sections will only be open to a single lane, with active traffic management in place. Motorists are urged to use caution and take extra care as conditions are still changing.
Transport Agency Highway Manager Neil Walker says a top priority for the Agency will be undertaking a detailed assessment of the scale and complexity of the large slips which are blocking SH1 on either side of Kaikoura.
The Transport Agency is working urgently with Kaikoura District Council to open the inland road (old State Highway 70) between Culverden and Kaikoura. Work crews have been assessing the road and structures for damage today, and crews will do everything possible to have this route safely open within days.
State Highway 1, Picton to Blenheim/Seddon is now open but Seddon to Cheviot remains closed. Cheviot to Christchurch is open.
In assessing sites blocked by large slips, the safety of the public, as well as Transport Agency staff and contractors is paramount, particularly with the possibility of continuing strong aftershocks, along with forecast high winds and heavy rains.
The priority is to re-connect communities which have been cut off by slips and the Transport Agency is working urgently with other agencies such as Police, KiwiRail and local authorities to coordinate efforts ensuring that people are transported out of closed areas safely, and roads or alternative routes are open and safe to use as soon as possible.
Transport Agency Highway Manager Neil Walker says it is too soon to tell how long it will take to assess the damage on all the upper South Island highways in order to open routes, or open up safe detour routes.
“Some have already been assessed and work has been planned for some sections of the highway with less severe damage. Other sites are currently inaccessible by road and/or 4WD and the safety risk needs to be carefully managed both in assessment and in the emergency repair work itself. Transport Agency and council teams are working as fast as we can to reopen highways or find alternative routes to places like Kaikoura.”
“Our priority is gaining access to communities which have been cut off, and also establishing an alternative route north from Christchurch to Blenheim. State Highway 7 is open, providing an alternative route for traffic to travel north to Blenheim. Drivers need to be cautious as the route will be down to a single lane in places. This alternative route will take approximately three extra hours, so people need factor in a longer journey time into their travel plans and ensure that they have plenty of fuel, warm clothes, food and water.
State Highway 7A, giving access to Hanmer Springs from State Highway 7, is closed overnight due to the risk of further rockfalls, and will re-open at 7am tomorrow for light vehicles only, and under escort by contractors. We will reassess this route during the day on Tuesday.
The Transport Agency thanks all road users for being patient as many people’s travel plans are disrupted and many people are again managing their homes, work and lives amidst the aftershocks.
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.
For traffic news visit www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link)
National Media Manager
NZ Transport Agency
T: 04 894 6285
M: 021 276 3222