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saddle road speed consultation

In January 2019 the Transport Agency consulted with the public on the proposed permanent speed limits to Saddle Road/Oxford Road/Woodlands Road/SH3, which is one of the bypass routes for the closed SH3 Manawatū Gorge.

Emergency speed limits have been in place along the route since January 2018 following the sharp increase in vehicles using these roads after the closure of the gorge in April 2017.

Permanent safe and appropriate speed limits needed to be set before the emergency speed limits expire on 25 January 2019.

Our priority is to make this a safer route so that everyone using it can get where they are going safely and reliably.

Summary report: speed limit consultation [PDF, 1.7 MB]

Permanent speed limits

The following speed limits were proposed during consultation and have been set as the new permanent speed limits:

  • 80km/h for SH3 from Woodville to Woodlands Road, Woodlands Road, Oxford Road and Saddle Road from Hope Road to Mangaatua Stream.
  • 60km/h for Saddle Road from Ashhurst to Mangaatua Stream.

The new permanent speed limits take effect from Friday 25 January 2019.

Map showing speed limits.

Investigation and evidence

When determining the proposed speed limits that we consulted on, we reviewed the speeds that people are currently driving the road, as well as the road itself. The speed limits of 80km/h and 60km/h were assessed to be the safe and appropriate speeds for the route.

A review of average travel speeds shows people are typically driving at 60-64km/h for the 80km/h length, and 55-59km/h for the 60km/h length. Other factors considered were the increase in traffic using this route since the closure of the Manawatū Gorge (150 vehicles per day increased to 5100), the increase in crashes (detailed below), and the characteristics of the roads, including a windy and narrow nature, narrow shoulder widths, vertical embankments and steep drop-offs, wooden side barriers and temporary fences.

A full alternative route to the gorge will not be built for at least five years and the risk will remain on this route until the traffic volume drops.

Crash history

Since the closure of the gorge in April 2017, crashes along this route have increased by 88%. Before the closure there were a total of five reported crashes between 2013 and 2016. Since the closure there have been 33 reported crashes, including one fatal and two serious injury crashes. This route is included in the top 5% of the regional network which will result in the greatest reduction in death and serious injury through speed management.

A total of 34 crashes were attributed to loss of control at curves, of which 18 were attributed to inappropriate speed. Even when speed doesn’t cause a crash, it is the biggest factor in determining whether someone is killed, injured, or walks away unharmed.

Lower permanent speed limits were needed to reduce the number of crashes and resulting deaths and serious injuries.

The new permanent speed limits are estimated to reduce the number of crashes by 20%. This will reduce the amount of time the road is closed due to crashes and reduce inconvenience to drivers.

Travel times

The new permanent speed limits will have minimal impact on travel times. Over the 16km route, the increase in travel time will be approximately 51 seconds.


Find out more about the Saddle Road permanent speed limit by reading the frequently asked questions.

Consultation and submissions

Public consultation closed 4pm, Friday 18 January 2019.

217 submissions were received during the consultation period from stakeholder organisations and the public.

A number of submissions included factors that were taken into consideration when setting the permanent speed limits, however no issues were identified that had not already been considered as part of previous detailed analysis of the route.

The main factors that were expressed in the feedback were the need for more enforcement of dangerous driving and speed limits, including speed cameras, improved signage at slow vehicle bays and corners, and more and longer slow vehicle bays and passing lanes.

We are always looking for ways to improve the safety of our country’s roads. The consultation feedback has been passed onto the relevant Transport Agency staff who will look into opportunities suggested by the public to improve the safety of this route. This route is included in the top 5% of the regional network which will result in the greatest reduction in death and serious injury through speed management.

We have addressed some of the other feedback below:

  • “The 60km/h proposal will encourage slow drivers to drive even slower than 60km/h, and increase the number of frustrated drivers and dangerous driving”
    A review of average travel speeds shows people are typically driving at 55-59km/h along the Saddle Road hill. A number of the submissions noted that impatience was caused by drivers targeting the current 80km/h limits being frustrated by drivers content to travel at a safe and appropriate speed. The 60km/h speed limit proposed will remove the encouragement of some drivers to target 80km/h.
  • “60km/h would not allow legal passing, particularly on passing lanes”
    The current passing lane at the Saddle Road summit starts where the 60km/h speed limit changes to 80km/h; vehicles in the left lane increase their speed to 80km/h, meaning speeds of 90-100km/h are required to pass them. Slower speed limits on passing lanes means traffic in the left lane isn’t encouraged to speed up, meaning passing can be accomplished at safer speeds.
  • “The increase of crashes was less than the percentage increase in traffic volumes since the gorge closure”
    No crash resulting in death or serious injury is acceptable, and every opportunity should be taken to address them, particularly where they have increased, whatever the reason. Reducing crashes will also make the route more reliable, reducing delays and maintaining economic productivity.
  • “Most of the crashes occurred at corners and were not noted as speed related in the Police reporting”
    Speed influences the impact outcome of all crashes - a consistent 60km/h speed limit will reduce driver mistakes and their consequences approaching the many tight curves across the Saddle Road hill.