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September-November 2017 - milestones achieved


Rail – Freight milestone

Rail - freight milestoneOn Friday 15 September 2017, 10 months after the earthquake, freight rail services resumed in a limited capacity on the Main North Line. Two freight trains travelled the Main North Line each night so that the rebuild of the road and rail could continue throughout the day.

This milestone meant that rail services, even in a limited capacity, took about 2,000 trucks off the alternate Picton to Christchurch route through Lewis Pass, building up to 4000 trucks when the line was fully operational.  While there were some time delays, the return of this cost-effective service meant there were also fewer emissions: every tonne of freight moved by rail delivers a 66% reduction in emissions for New Zealand.

Reopening the Main North Line months earlier than expected was a huge success, which benefited communities cut off by the earthquake, increased efficiency in the South Island supply chain and significantly benefited companies that generate freight, contributing to economic growth.

The internationally acclaimed Coastal Pacific tourism experience was expected to be up and running when the rail line is fully complete and all the speed restrictions were lifted in 2018.

As a measure of the scale of the work that has been carried out, about 50,000 cubic metres of ballast (or 90,000 tonnes, enough to fill 20 Olympic-size swimming pools) was used to restore the track.

Commemorating the rebuild of the line with a sculpture

Commemorating the rebuild of the line with a sculptureA sculpture by internationally renowned local artist Ben Foster was unveiled at the reopening event in Kaikōura on 15 September 2017, to commemorate the effort put in by the 1500 people involved in the rebuild.

The sculpture features pieces of twisted track salvaged from Irongate, north of Kaikōura and recognises the November 2016 earthquake event and its effects on the wider community.

SH1 – Ohau Point, the last slip in the red zone

SH1- Ohau Point - the last slip in the red zoneOhau Point, located north of Kaikōura, stretches more than half a kilometre. In this area, the transport corridor is narrow with space only for the road between the hill and the Pacific Ocean. The railway goes through a tunnel under Ohau Point. This section of SH1 sustained the most damage, completely cutting off access to the north and making this site the most complex and challenging of all the slips along the corridor.

Situated in the middle of the northern coastal corridor, Ohau wasn’t easy to reach. Crews had to build construction access tracks around the other nine landslides from the northern and southern ends in order to reach Ohau in the middle.

A major operation to install 6000 square metres of steel mesh on Ohau’s fragile northern face was completed in September 2017. The mesh allows crews to safely clear the small mountain of material still waiting to be shifted underneath. It also signalled the start of construction of a new seawall and road on the northern side of the slip.

By August 2017, a construction access platform was cut around the hillside, enabling machinery to make quicker progress to clear the slip material. For the first time since the earthquake, work crews from both sides of the landmark could work together.

Work at Ohau Point started in March 2017 with helicopter sluicing crews and specialist abseilers working long hours for several weeks to clear loose material from the site.

In March, machinery at both sides of the slip started work clearing the estimated 110,000 cubic metres of rock and debris as quickly and safely as possible.

A remote-controlled excavator also started work on the northern side of the slip, which was still too unstable to allow workers access safely.

Spring 2017 – Road on track to reopening

Winter impacted the overall work programme but everything remained on track to reopen State Highway 1 in time for Christmas.  Progress accelerated both to the north and south of Kaikōura where tunnel repairs, cliff stability and rock fall mitigation and protection work ramped up. Work progressed rapidly at Ohau Point and all slips were cleared by November 2017. In the north, mesh work wrapped up ensuring that work below the slip sites could progress safely. Crews worked around the clock and in a coordinated way to reach the end of year target.

In October 2017, the critical path projects were in full swing: seawall teams continued work at several sites to build approximately 2.5 kilometres of seawalls on which the new highway would be built. In parallel, a new 144 metre long bridge was quickly taking shape with piles joining the new seawall. Further north, at The Pines and the Sandpit, new retaining walls got completed on which the new road would be laid and teams progressed fast. In the south, along the 55km stretch of road through the Hundalee hills, five major projects including retaining structures, bridge repairs, guard rails and culverts were progressing well.

Travel in the upper South Island

Please check or call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49) before you travel. 

State Highway 1

SH1 north of Kaikōura opened to traffic during daytime hours on Friday 15 December reconnecting the coastal corridor for the first time since the earthquake in November 2016. Two sections will be closed at night (8.30pm) as a safety precaution. They are (north of Kaikōura) between Clarence and Mangamaunu and (south of Kaikōura) between Goose Bay and Peketa. Both areas will re-open each day at 7am once crews have completed a safety check. Opening hours are subject to change due to weather, emergencies and seismic activity) to enable the reinstatement work to continue at pace.

The alternate Picton to Christchurch route

The alternate route between Picton and Christchurch is via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7 through Lewis Pass. This route is a good 24/7 option from Picton to Christchurch with a reliable travel time. You should expect this journey to take a minimum of six and a half hours. Drivers should allow plenty of extra time as safety and improvements work is underway and in case of unexpected delays.

The Inland Road (Route 70)

The Inland Road (Route 70) past Mt Lyford is a 24/7 option to get to Kaikōura if SH1 is closed.

The marina

The marinaOne year on, 30,000 work hours and 880 truck loads of material later, the Kaikōura harbour was handed back to the community. The harbour was officially re-opened to the Kaikōura community with a karakia and mihi from Te Runanga o Kaikōura. More than 200 people gathered together to celebrate at the dawn ceremony and then at the official ceremony at midday.

As part of the celebration, The Runanga o Kaikōura created a memorial at the harbour from sperm whale ribs that had emerged at a local beach during the earthquake. Two of the whale bones represent the two earthquake victims and one represents the people of Kaikōura.