The NZ Transport Agency says increasing public access in and out of Kaikoura via the inland road (route 70) is an urgent priority as crews continue working to restore the severe damage wrought by the November 14 earthquake.
Control of the road was formally transferred to the NZ Transport Agency earlier today by the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.
Transport Agency contractors and local work crews have been working since the day of the quake from both ends of the road to clear slips, inspect bridges and get the road to a state where it can be used safely.
Twenty-five work crews have been located along the 95km-long inland route, working to repair the road and clear thousands of tonnes of material that came down in more than 50 separate slips during the earthquake.
Controlled access on the road for residents and essential services as far north as Mt Lyford was re-instated last week.
NZ Transport Agency Regional Performance Manager Pete Connors says while the inland road between Kaikoura and Mt Lyford is still a very fragile and hazardous route, good progress is being made and controlled access for military vehicles and essential services has been established.
Mr Connors says following the successful convoy of private vehicles out of Kaikoura last Friday (Nov 25), the Transport Agency will be scheduling more regular opportunities for supervised travel in and out of Kaikoura on the route from tomorrow.
'We’ve now established a daily schedule and we’ve set up a website and phone number where people can register to travel. For safety reasons only people that have registered with the Transport Agency will be able to travel during the scheduled times,' he says.
'We know how important this connection is for people in Kaikoura and others who live along the route, and our focus is on making the road safe so we can open it the public with fewer restrictions as soon as soon as possible.'
The Transport Agency is working closely with Hurunui District Council and Kaikoura District Council during the transition to ensure the right balance of access, safety and progressing the road repair.
Mr Connors says contractors are also working hard to re-establish access to and from Kaikoura from the south via State Highway 1, with work crews currently clearing several large slips and rockfalls. The Transport Agency is aiming to restore controlled, single lane access for residents and essential services on the road by mid-December, dependent on weather and any further earthquakes.
While some work has been carried out on SH1 north of Kaikoura to restore access for local residents and emergency services, Mr Connors says with the risk of on-going large aftershocks, conditions are still too unstable to safely allow geotechnical engineers onto some of the largest slips to carry out detailed inspections.
'Given the scale and the complexity of the damage to SH1 north of Kaikoura, our immediate focus is on securing the inland road as a lifeline for Kaikoura, and re-storing access via SH1 from the south as soon as possible.'
Details of the daily travel schedule for the inland road (route 70) and information on how to register are available here: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic-and-travel-information/travel-information-for-canterbury-and-marlborough-regions/(external link)