Lyttelton Tunnel will next month celebrate its 50th birthday, the opening of the new tunnel control building and national recognition for its engineering heritage with a community event that will include the rare opportunity to walk through the tunnel.
The tunnel will be closed for three hours on Sunday 31 August, from 9.30am, for the communities of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula to celebrate these important milestones.
The event will include the opportunity to walk, cycle or skateboard through the almost 2km long tunnel and finish with a market day in Lyttelton hosted by the Lyttelton Harbour Business Association.
The NZ Transport Agency’s Southern Regional Director Jim Harland says the tunnel turned 50 on 27 February this year but with work underway to build the new control building and reconstruct the highway damaged by the earthquakes, the celebrations were delayed until all the work was completed.
“The new tunnel control building has just been finished and work on the highway is on schedule for completion early next month.”
He says the community is being invited to celebrate these milestones, along with the completion of the work by SCIRT on the Horotane Valley overpass to repair and strengthen the connections between Christchurch and Lyttelton.
“When the road tunnel opened in 1964, more than 110 years after it was first mooted, the community hailed it as the new gateway for the Port to the Plains. It was a significant development in the history of the region providing easier and safer access for local industries to get produce to international markets.”
The tunnel cost £2.7 million to build and it was said to be “among the most modern in the world”. At 1944m long it became, and remains, New Zealand’s longest road tunnel. It took three years to build.
“An important part of next month’s commemorative celebrations is the local community for whom the tunnel has become even more critical as a lifeline since the earthquakes reduced access options to Lyttelton Harbour.
“We are opening the tunnel for people to walk through, just as local residents did when the tunnel opened in 1964, and as we did back in 1964, walkers, cyclists and skateboarders will be asked for a donation – a gold coin this time – with all money raised going to the same charity, Cholmondeley Children’s Centre.”
Cholmondeley will use the funds raised toward providing vital emergency and planned respite care for children in Canterbury. More than 25,500 children have stayed at Cholmondeley since 1925, with 75 per cent of funding coming from the community.
The new $1.5 million tunnel control building, designed by Wellington-based Architecture Lab and built by local company Higgs Construction to 160 percent of the Building Code, signals a new era for the operation of the tunnel. Mr Harland says a new control building has the strength that will ensure the tunnel can continue to operate in the aftermath of any future earthquake.
No Job Too Hard, the second volume detailing the history of Fletcher Construction, which jointly built the tunnel with American-based Kaiser Engineers and Constructors, will be launched as part of the tunnel celebrations. The author is Jack Smith one of the project managers for the construction of the tunnel.
Mr Harland says Sunday 31 August will be a true community celebration. “It will have a strong focus on families and reflect the importance of the tunnel, to not only Lyttelton Harbour residents, but also in supporting Christchurch’s and the South Island’s economy.”
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Media Manager - Christchurch
NZ Transport Agency
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