The SH2 Remutaka Hill road is the main artery linking the Wellington and Wairarapa regions, with an average of 7,380 vehicles using the road daily.
Of these, around 310 use the road between 9pm and 4am. With the nearest detour route over 100km away, effective maintenance of the road is critical for both the Wellington and Wairarapa communities.
The steep, narrow hill road is a difficult road to maintain. We previously maintained the road with approximately 300 stop/go road works during the year, mostly during the day. Road users faced delays nearly every day and there were several close calls for our workers.
This difficult working environment did not meet our safety requirements for our workers or for road users. It also did not enable the road to be maintained to the standard we expect.
Following consultation with regular night-time hill road users, the first block of night-time closures occurred in March 2019. The immediate outcome was the delivery of higher quality maintenance work. Most importantly, full closures of the road at night improved the safety of maintenance crews who previously operated machinery in this very constrained environment. Road users experienced a dramatic reduction in the inconvenience of stop/go works to just five in the following six months.
The success of the March 2019 closures has been followed by a programme of up to 29 nights of closures per 'maintenance year' August to July since then, involving 5-night and 1-night closures spaced through the year.
While we achieve a year's worth of high quality maintenance during the relatively small number of closures, we remain aware that the Remutaka Hill Road is a high-use mountain road will always require ongoing maintenance to keep it safe and in optimal working order. Like a car, the more you use it, the more servicing it needs. As a mountain pass, the hill road experiences extremes of weather.
We give everyone early notice of the planned closures scheduled over the coming 12 months so people can plan their journeys well in advance. We provide a limited timetable of escorted crossings for light vehicles during the closures to assist shift workers and others with essential commitments.
The timetable depends on the type of works taking place and the few opportunities for crossings that are safe for both our workers and for the road users. Emergency services have access at all times.