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Project introduction

Congestion on the Northern Corridor (all roads from the north into Christchurch) has worsened since the Canterbury earthquakes. Multiple organisations are working on ways to make travel times more reliable. There are also ways the community can help reduce vehicle numbers at peak times.

  • Project type

    Safety improvements

Project updates

Northern Corridor Commuters Research 2016
Project reports, (PDF)
Ten years carpooling
Newsletters, (DOCX)
Stuck in traffic - Try carpooling
Newsletters, (DOCX)
Survey supports carpooling to ease congestion
Project updates, (PDF)
Northern Corridor Commuters Research
Project reports, (PDF)

Significant population growth in North Canterbury, especially since the earthquakes, is putting pressure on the routes in and out of Christchurch. Commuters are experiencing queues, delays and frustration.

Below you will find information about what we are doing to help ease congestion and how you can play a significant part in that.

Motorway Manner videos

Motorway Manners is a series of videos by the NZ Transport Agency to help you drive smarter on the Northern Motorway during the morning commute. Take a few minutes to view these videos and make your commute a little better.

Short-term improvements

The NZ Transport Agency, Waimakariri District Council, Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury and Christchurch Transport Operations Centre are working on a range of short-term solutions to reduce congestion on Christchurch’s Northern Corridor (the routes in and out of Christchurch from the north).

Some short-term solutions have been put in place and others are being investigated. It is unlikely these changes will make significant improvements on their own which is why we ask motorists to consider what part they can play to help minimise congestion.

It will take only a 10% reduction in traffic volumes during the morning peak to get traffic moving again.  This equates to about 300 vehicles travelling on the northern corridor between the hours of 6am – 9am.

Not an impossible reduction if we all work together. Take a look at what we are doing and how you can help ease the Northern Corridor congestion.

What are we doing to help

  • Traffic bollards at onramps

    The installation of traffic bollards in May 2014 along the painted medium at the Tram Road onramp helped drivers to use the on-ramps correctly, improving traffic flows onto the motorway by preventing drivers from entering the motorway traffic stream before the end of the on-ramp.

  • Variable Speed Signs

    During the morning peak, motorists braking for the 60km/h speed limit at Belfast cause the traffic flow breakdown (congestion). The braking at Belfast ripples back through the traffic. This creates queues and reduces travel speeds on the motorway to less than 30km/h from about 6.30am to 8.30am. Introducing a 60km/h or 70km/h speed limit during this time slows traffic from just south of Ohoka Road, where there is less traffic, reducing the onset of queuing, keeping everyone moving and improving travel times.

    It’s like pouring something through a funnel – if you pour it all in at once it clogs up the funnel if you pour more slowly it flows through the funnel easily

    Traffic flows and speeds on the Northern Motorway are monitored and the 60km/h or 70km/h speed limits are only activated when queues look like forming during heavy traffic.

    The Variable Speed Signs are not a magic bullet but they have reduced the duration of traffic delays – the start of queuing is now later and the recovery is quicker.

  • Electronic Information Signs

    New electronic signs have been installed on the Northern Motorway to keep motorists better informed of travel conditions and any incidents that will enable them to make decisions on the best route for their journey.

  • Text alerts

    A Text message trial is being investigated as another way to let motorists know what is happening on the motorway in the event of crashes, ice or other incidents that may affect their journey.  

  • Merge like a zip campaign

    A merge like a zip campaign continues to run in print and social media, it asks drivers to use the on-ramps correctly – Drivers should on the on-ramps to enter the traffic stream smoothly at the end of the on-ramp.  While, drivers on the motorway should allow room for traffic to enter the stream of traffic. 

  • Improvements to bus services

    Environment Canterbury is helping to reduce congestion on Christchurch’s Northern Motorway by improving public transport services. Every time you catch a bus you are not only saving on parking and petrol costs, but it gives you time to relax, catch-up on emails or social media while you’re being driven. By catching a bus, you can do your bit to reduce traffic congestion, reduce environmental pollution and create the open-space city we said we wanted to create post-earthquake.

    A number of improvements to bus services from Waimakariri district are also being introduced. The frequency of bus services from Wamakariri is being increased, route coverage improved and a new commuter service introduced from Rangiora to Hornby, via Christchurch International Airport. More Info on Bus Improvements.

  • Enhanced Incident Response Trial

    The Enhanced Incident Response is a contracting crew with towing vehicles who are stationed on Ohoka Road. Having this crew stationed close to the Northern Motorway improves the response times to attend any incidents or crashes on the northern motorway. This is a six-month trial that started in June for the peak commuting hours: 6-9am and 4-6pm, weekdays. This trial will assess if there is value in having a crew and towing capacity available over the colder months for the northern route into and out of Christchurch.

    The advantages of having a crew ready and close by over the peaks hours include:

    • Faster response times to attend incidents or crashes
    • Quicker resolution of the cause of the hold-up
    • Better co-ordination with Emergency Services / the Transport Operations Centres
    • Improved  traveller communication from the Transport Operations Centres through their networks
    • Ensures a safer environment for road users
    • Benefits anyone who is on the highway or the local roads managed by the councils leading onto and off the highways – one network approach
    • Improved journey time reliability and a more predictable journey
    • Fast and accurate customer information.

    The crew will also collect information while on site and share that with the Traffic Operations Centres – for example:

    • The location of the response crew
    • Weather and road conditions (for example, if there are any patches of gritted road or black ice)
    • Traffic flows every 30 minutes – heavy, medium or light
    • Driver behaviour observations every 30 minutes.

What can you do to help

  • Carpooling: Save money – share a ride

    More than 10,000 Waimakariri residents travel to work in Christchurch by car each day and about 80% to 85% of these vehicles have only one occupant during peak travel times. Everyone can save money and time by sharing their ride with one or more passengers in their vehicle. We are not expecting motorists to carpool every day but even carpooling a couple of times a week will help to reduce the volume of traffic on the motorway and reduce congestion.

    Smart Travel NZ is the easy way to find a carpool match.  Carpooling is an option that can save you money and minimise parking worries while reducing the number of cars on the road. Journey sharing can be as flexible as you want it to be. It’s all up to you. Fill those empty seats in your car and register now at Smart Travel NZ(external link).

  • Park and ride facilities

    The Waimakariri District Council will be providing Park and Ride facilities in Rangiora at White Street and Silverstream Boulevard, to coincide with changes to the Blue Line route and the introduction of the new Rangiora to Christchurch Airport route.

    Road users can drive or cycle to these facilities, knowing there will be a parking space for their car or bike and jump on the bus for the rest of their journey into Christchurch.


Longer Term Improvements

New highways to help with predictable journeys.

The NZ Transport Agency is building two new highways to the north of Christchurch – the Western Corridor and Northern Arterial.  These will help ease congestion and provide motorists with more predictable journey times, particularly during the morning peak.

These projects will:

  • Provide more predictable journey times and reduce congestion
  • Improve access to Christchurch’s Central City, Christchurch International Airport and Lyttelton Port
  • Allow for improved cycle and pedestrian facilities and public transport infrastructure
  • Provide safer streets by moving freight trucks and commuter traffic off suburban roads
  • Support economic growth by moving people and goods more quickly and efficiently
  • Support the urban growth plans for North Canterbury and Christchurch.

The Western Corridor will be finished in 2017/18 and Northern Arterial 2019/20.

Have a look at these videos for more information on the Western Corridor and Northern Arterial

More information on these projects can be found at these links

What about light rail?

Environment Canterbury and partners have investigated introducing a commuter rail service from Rangiora on the existing railway line to help reduce northern congestion in the short term. It was found not to be viable in the short-term for four key reasons:

  • The railway line doesn’t take people where they need to go. Many Waimakariri commuters work near the airport and central city which are not well serviced by the existing track.
  • Costs were too high for Ecan (and therefore your rates) as there would need to be upgrades to stations and the buying/leasing, operating and maintaining of trains. We would still need to run bus services as well to service the bus stops in between the stations.
  • The cost would likely be too high for the individual (>$10 each way) plus many people would still need to buy an additional bus ticket as well.
  • Use of the existing single track by freight would restrict the potential timetable and could delay passenger services – (The train would be infrequent and slower than driving).

We haven’t ruled out light rail in the long term, but for now a package of bus improvements is a better, more cost-effective, short-term solution for everyone.