Following a series of earthquakes and aftershocks throughout Monday 14 November, the NZ Transport Agency is continuing to assess state highways across the top of the South Island and where possible, safely reopen parts of the highway closed by slips.
There are many sites affected on State Highways 1 and 7, on both sides of Kaikoura, and inland from Waipara to the Hanmer Springs turnoff and to Springs Junction (State Highway 7, the Lewis Pass route) - some more extensively damaged than others.
State Highway 1, Picton to Blenheim/Seddon is now open but Seddon to Cheviot remains closed. Cheviot to Christchurch is open.
“In assessing the sites, the safety of the public, as well as Transport Agency staff and contractors is paramount, particularly with the possibility of continuing strong aftershocks, along with forecast high winds and heavy rains,” says Neil Walker, Transport Agency Highway Manager.
“We are aware that communities have been cut off by slips and we are working urgently with other agencies such as Police, KiwiRail and local authorities to coordinate efforts ensuring people are transported out of closed areas safely, and roads or alternative routes are open and safe to use as soon as possible.”
Mr Walker says it is too soon to tell how long it will take to assess the damage on all the upper South Island highways in order to open routes, or open up safe detour routes.
“Some have already been assessed and work has been planned for some sections of the highway with less severe damage. Other sites are currently inaccessible by road and/or 4WD and the safety risk needs to be carefully managed both in assessment and in the emergency repair work itself. Transport Agency and council teams are working as fast as we can to reopen highways or find alternative routes to places like Kaikoura.”
“Our priority is gaining access to communities which have been cut off, and also establishing an alternative route north from Christchurch to Blenheim. State Highway 7 will be opening tonight so that we have an alternative route for traffic to travel north to Blenheim. Drivers need to be cautious as the route will be down to a single lane in places. This alternative route will take approximately three extra hours, so people need factor in a longer journey time into their travel plans and ensure that they have plenty of fuel, warm clothes, food and water.
To enable access to Kaikoura, we are working with Kaikoura District Council to open the inland road (old State Highway 70) between Culverden and Kaikoura. Work crews are currently assessing the road and structures for damage and we hope to have this route safely open within days.
State Highway 7A, giving access to Hanmer Springs from State Highway 7, will be open from around 5pm until 8pm tonight but for light vehicles only, and under escort by contractors. It will be closed overnight due to ongoing risk of further rock falls. This route will then open again at 7am tomorrow morning under the same conditions. We will reassess this route during the day on Tuesday.
The Transport Agency thanks all road users for being patient as many people’s travel plans are disrupted and many people are again managing their homes, work and lives amidst the aftershocks.
People can call 0800 44 44 49 for updates and the Transport Agency’s website and social media accounts will be also updated as more information is available.
For traffic news visit www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link)
Felicity Connell, Media Manager, Central region