Little room for error – a section of sea wall under construction at Hapuku, north of Kaikoura – Photo courtesy of the NZ Transport Agency
Tremendous progress on South Island key coastal route continues
The reopening of State Highway 1 (SH1) at night through Kaikoura from late April marks another step closer to fully restoring the transport networks in the region, say the NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail.
WEB EXCLUSIVEThe NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has confirmed that SH1 between Picton and Christchurch will reopen for night-time travel from Monday 30 April. NZTA earthquake recovery manager Tim Crow says 24-hour operation has been the main focus since the road reopened in day-time hours in December, and this is an important milestone for all road users and residents.
“We’ve delivered an extensive construction programme over the last year and the critical safety work will soon be complete. More than 30,000 sq m of steel mesh has been wrapped around slips south of Kaikoura and new infrastructure, such as bridges and sea walls, has been built to the north. All of this construction work is designed to ensure the route stays safe and resilient for the future, and we’ll be continuing our work to finish and improve the corridor throughout 2018.”
KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy says locals, tourists and businesses will all welcome the option of having two road routes plus rail freight services to choose from. “This is another key milestone as we continue the journey towards restoring road and rail networks to pre-earthquake conditions,” he says.
Resilience and reliabilityThe Main North Line reopened with a restricted level of service in September last year, with SH1 following three months later. More than 170,000 tonnes of freight have been moved on the rail line since then, meaning around 12,000 fewer trucks on the roads.
“We’ve seen excellent progress since then, even with the impact of events like Cyclone Gita. KiwiRail’s focus is on improving the resilience and reliability of the rail line for our customers,” Mr Reidy says.
“With repairs being completed at many more sites since we reopened, trains are completing the trip more quickly. Moving forwards, we expect considerably fewer instances when the line needs to be closed on a precautionary basis due to heavy rainfall in the area,” he adds.
“This has already improved services for our customers and we expect to see further incremental gains over the coming months.”
Mr Reidy says night-time-only services will continue for the next few months to allow the rebuild of the rail and road works to continue during the day. “However, we are getting closer to announcing a date for the return of our award-winning Coastal Pacific rail journey which is likely to be in time for the peak summer season towards the end of the year.”