Project introduction

Since 1964 the Lyttelton Tunnel has been a critical road link between the Port of Lyttelton and Christchurch, reducing the travel distance between the two by around 8km. This tunnel is a vital transport artery for delivering the goods and services needed to rebuild Christchurch.

  • Project type

    Road maintenance
  • Project status


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The Lyttelton Tunnel provides a critical road link between the Port of Lyttelton and Christchurch. 




New Zealand's longest road tunnel is designed to handle 2,400 vehicles an hour. In 1965, an average of 2,805 vehicles a day used the tunnel. In 2011 this figure is just over 11,000 vehicles a day including around 1,260 heavy commercial vehicles, underlining the tunnel’s importance as a key freight route.

Fire protection upgrade

Work has started on installing a modern fire protection Deluge system in the Lyttelton Tunnel that will improve safety for all tunnel users. Learn more.

Heavy vehicles in the tunnel

The Lyttelton Tunnel is a vital heavy motor vehicle transport link that makes a major contribution to economic growth in both Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region.

However, certain goods are not allowed to be transported through the tunnel and must use an alternative route such as Evans or Gebbies Pass. Evans Pass is the main over dimension and dangerous goods heavy vehicle route between Christchurch and Lyttelton. Dangerous goods typically have a flash point of 23o Celsius or less and include flammable, toxic and hazardous liquids such as goods identified as Class 3 flammable liquids, packing groups I and II or Class 6 Division 6.1 toxic substances, packing group I.

Dangerous goods information 

The tunnel's safety rules are covered by the Lyttelton Tunnel Bylaw which gives the tunnel control offices the authority they need to manager the tunnel and ensure the safety of all users.

Lyttelton Tunnel Bylaw

Because of road closures caused by the Christchurch earthquakes including Evans Pass, Waka Kotahi allowed some previously prohibited goods to be transported through the tunnel under specific conditions. The tunnel became a critical link in the supply chain for delivering goods and services during the Christchurch rebuild before Evans Pass was reopened in March 2019.

These concessions helped to keep transport costs down for businesses during what was a challenging time for both Christchurch and the Canterbury region.

Dangerous goods

Explosives are not allowed to be transported through the tunnel at any time.

Certain classes of dangerous goods can be transported through the Lyttelton Tunnel between 7pm and 7am.

Vehicles with the classes of dangerous goods that can be carted through the tunnel must be checked by a tunnel control officer before entering the tunnel. Drivers should wait in the appropriate lay-by until a tunnel control officer gives them approval to proceed into the tunnel. For more details, download the information sheet for commercial users. [PDF, 462 KB]