Plan ahead and allow extra time is the message from the NZ Transport Agency as work ramps up on both routes between Picton and Christchurch from this week – via Kaikōura and via the Lewis Pass.
Transport Agency Journey Manager Tresca Forrester says State Highway 1 (SH1) through Kaikōura will be a noticeably different drive compared to the Christmas/New Year period when crews were stood down to take a well-deserved break and help traffic flow well over the busiest time.
“From this week, our crews will be back on the ground starting work and by 15 January the work programme will be back in full delivery which will have a significant effect on the coastal corridor. It’s a balancing act to schedule work to have a minimal effect on travel time while also ensuring the work gets done.
“Drivers should expect it to take at least five-and-a-half hours to six hours to drive between Picton and Christchurch on SH1, but should allow plenty of extra time in case of delays.”
The two most earthquake-damaged sections will be closed at night (8.30pm to 7am) as a safety precaution. North of Kaikōura this is between Clarence and Mangamaunu and south of Kaikōura between Goose Bay and Peketa. There will also be multiple worksites in these sections during the day operated by Stop/Go traffic managers with a big increase in construction traffic.
Drivers should take extra care, drive to the conditions and adhere to all speed limits which are there to keep everyone safe.
The alternate route, via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7 through the Lewis Pass, remains a reliable 24/7 option for travel between Picton and Christchurch. However roadworks on this alternate route – and on the Inland Road (Route 70, via Waiau) - will also begin mid-January as long daylight hours and warm dry weather helps new seal set properly.
“The Transport Agency and our contractors are committed to getting the work done with as little disruption as possible but there may be delays. Although road works can be inconvenient, drivers will have a better, safer journey once the work is done.”
Whichever route they take the Transport Agency advises drivers to allow plenty of time for their trip, especially if they are catching a ferry or are on a tight schedule, and to take regular breaks and share the driving if possible. Police will be working along both corridors to help all road users stay safe.
For real-time travel information and details on SH1 and the alternate route go to www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c (external link) or call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49). The Transport Agency recommends drivers check information at least two hours before travel and at key route decision points. Electronic signs displaying real-time information will also be positioned at important locations.
Ms Forrester also reminded drivers that in the event SH1 is closed, the unsealed and narrow Department of Conservation-managed road through Molesworth Station, the Acheron Road, is not suitable for most drivers including people towing boats or caravans, driving buses or a vehicle over seven metres long. All drivers intent on getting to Christchurch with few delays should take the Lewis Pass route from Blenheim.
The Molesworth road is a 207 kilometre unsealed journey taking at least six hours following the Awatere River for the first 100 km then onto Hanmer Springs. The area is remote with limited cell coverage, no petrol stations or food shops and people striking mechanical issues or crashing will be delayed significantly on this road.