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Safety focus for SH1 alternate route


Improvements are being made to strengthen the alternate route between Picton and Christchurch.

Freight truckDue to the closure of State Highway 1 between Christchurch and Picton following November’s earthquake, traffic is being diverted onto an alternate route (via state highways 7, 65, 6 and 63) which goes though the Wairau Valley, St Arnaud, Murchison, over the Alps at Lewis Pass and on to Waipara, where it re-joins State Highway 1. 

There is four times the usual traffic volume on the alternate route so the NZ Transport Agency has invested in infrastructure improvements to make it safer and more resilient.

More than $60 million is being invested with more than half already spent. This includes resealing, repairing or strengthening more than 56 km of the route, additional pull over areas for trucks and slow vehicle bays and widening several sections of the road to allow trucks and other vehicles to more comfortably and safely travel.

Other improvements include installing several new bailey bridges alongside existing one-way bridges, installing traffic signals on one-way bridges, and using radars and webcams to measure traffic volumes and provide travel updates.

The Transport Agency is also increasing the resources, monitoring and equipment on the route this winter with road crews on stand-by 24/7 over the winter months. In order to run the route as efficiently as possible and keep it open as much as possible the Transport Agency is planning on managing the Lewis Pass as it used to do State Highway 1 via Kaikoura – either Open or Closed. This means that the previous restriction of “chains essential” and “no towing vehicles” will not be an option this winter on the Lewis Pass.

A truck crash prevention plan has been developed by the Truck Crashes/Rollover Prevention Team made up of members from NZ Transport Agency, NZ Trucking Association, Road Transport Association of NZ, Heavy Haulage, National Road Carriers, Police, Commercial Vehicles Investigation Unit, Transport Agency Contractors and Consultants and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance.

The group will be carrying out a range of activity designed to progressively reduce the incidence and severity of heavy vehicle crashes on the alternate route. This includes:

  • Joint education and awareness programmes – Healthy Truck Driver and Share the Road with Big Trucks
  • Truck Rollover Prevention Workshops
  • Thumbs Up Programme in schools
  • Text messaging service for freight operators already in use on the two alpine passes has been extended to a new text messaging service for the alternate route.

For more information on winter driving along the alternate route read the Winter Journeys FAQs (external link) or visit our website (external link) .