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The NZTA plans to reopen SH1 north of Kaikoura in mid-December, but warns several sites will still be under construction, with unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go traffic controls
Photos courtesy of NCTIR

Coastal highway set to reopen in December

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has confirmed plans to open State Highway 1 (SH1) north of Kaikoura to traffic on Friday 15 December, restoring the coastal highway link from Picton to Christchurch.

NZTA earthquake recovery manager Tim Crow says the reopening of the highway will give people two viable options for travel around the upper South Island, with the alternate route (via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7 through Lewis Pass) remaining a reliable option for travel.

Mr Crow says North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) crews have been working hard under difficult conditions – including ongoing wet weather – to meet the target of reopening the road in time for the holidays. “It’s a huge job, but the work is progressing well.”

When the road reopens, several sites will still be under construction. There will be some unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go traffic controls. The route will be closed at night in places for several months as a safety precaution, and planned closures will also be needed at times to carry out high-impact work. 

“While we’re reopening SH1 as early as we safely can to provide better access to Kaikoura and for those communities along the coastal route, the full rebuild of the highway will continue in 2018,” Mr Crow says.

Plan your journey well ahead

Mr Crow says that whatever route people choose to take, the NZTA is urging them to allow plenty of extra time when planning journeys and to check the latest conditions at least two hours before travel (and at key route decision points when driving) so that they can get to their destination safely in case of delays.

“It’s important for drivers to understand that both routes have their own challenges so they need to think about the best option for them and where they’re heading. Either way, people will need to allow plenty of time in case of unexpected delays or closures.”

The estimated travel time to drive between Picton and Christchurch on SH1 when it reopens in December is expected to be a minimum of five-and-a-half hours. Driving on the alternate route is expected to take a minimum of six-and-a-half hours. 

Work will continue in 2018 to bring SH1 back to its pre-earthquake condition and complete improvement on the 60 km section of SH1 between Clarence and Oaro. Improvements will also continue to be delivered on the alternate route.

Information on SH1 north of Kaikoura

Detailed information about ‘what open looks like’ is being shared via a dedicated web page which will be updated regularly with more information (including photos and video footage) about what to expect on the route as the reopening date approaches.

For further information, visit www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c


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