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Tunnel celebrates its 50th in style

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Recently more than 25,000 Christchurch residents turned out to celebrate the 50th birthday of New Zealand’s longest road tunnel – Lyttelton Tunnel.

An inside job - walking or biking, the crowd enjoyed some real tunnel vision.

An inside job - walking or biking, the crowd enjoyed some real tunnel vision.

They came with family, friends and colleagues, walking, cycling or skateboarding the 1.94km through the tunnel – many both ways – everyone enjoying the rare opportunity to do so.

The event was a triple celebration. Not only did it mark the tunnel’s 50th birthday, but also the opening of the new Lyttelton Tunnel Control building and national recognition of the tunnel for its engineering heritage.

The new tunnel control building was opened by the Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Nicky Wagner and the commemorative cake was cut by the Associate Minister and Jack Smith who project managed construction of the tunnel in the early 1960s.

The tunnel opened in 1964, 110 years after it was first mooted and was hailed by the community as the new gateway from the Port to the Plains. It was a significant development in the history of the Canterbury region.

Built at a cost of £2.7 million, the tunnel to build was said to be “among the most modern in the world”. At 1944m long it became, and still remains, New Zealand’s longest road tunnel. It took three years to build.

The birthday celebrations were attended by many of those involved in building the tunnel as well as those staffed the toll booths. It was a memorable day and the community is already planning the next event when the tunnel turns 100!

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