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NZ Earthquake Update (Alternative Picton to Christchurch route) – 22 November 2016

The alternative route to State Highway 1

Source: NZ Transport Agency (visit website)

State Highway 1 from Picton to Christchurch is a nationally strategic route, providing a vital freight link between the North Island via Picton, onwards to the Lyttelton Port, Christchurch International Airport, and the rest of the South Island. It is also a busy route for domestic and overseas tourists.

Restoring full access between Picton and Christchurch via State Highway 1 will be a huge job that will take a number of months to complete. The scale and the complexity of the slips on State Highway 1 are unprecedented in New Zealand, and the task ahead of us is huge.

While the work to restore SH1 is carried out, it is essential that there is another safe and reliable highway link connecting Picton to Christchurch. The only viable option for that route is via Murchison and the Lewis Pass. This will be the main state highway route from Christchurch to Picton for at least several months, given the scale of the slips which have closed State Highway 1.

We are fully aware of the impact that this will have on the communities located along this route and the issues for road users.

We will be investing additional time and resources to maintain the road to the level required to safely cope with a significant increase in traffic and ensure people’s safety, and we will work together with communities to listen to their concerns and manage the impact on local residents and businesses.

Advice for road users

We will be encouraging road users to build in extra time along this route and to be aware that it will take them a minimum of seven and a half hours to travel from Picton to Christchurch, and that they should stop and use the facilities at key towns along the route. (map link).

They will be reminded that the route is a main freight route so to expect more trucks than they normally would, be courteous and patient.

Safety and more help at hand along the route

There will be increased high visibility Police patrols and Transport Agency maintenance contract team presence along the route over the summer season and while SH1 is out of action.

This will help ensure that people stick to safe travel speeds, know that speed limits will be enforced and any highway issues caused by crashes or bad weather can be managed by the maintenance crews quickly to keep the highway open, safe and traffic flowing.

Getting an accurate picture of what needs to be done

Given the additional traffic volumes and pressure on this route, a team of Transport Agency roading experts travelled the new route over the past two days to identify places which need to be improved to cope with the traffic volumes and  to improve resilience – for example around bridges and rivers.

Some shoulders of the highway may need to be widened in coming weeks.

Speed restrictions in some places may also be necessary.

Signage is another issue which is being upgraded in coming days to ensure that all drivers have clear directions south from Picton to Christchurch along this route and back in the other direction.

Traffic volume information:

Before the 14 November, 2016, earthquakes cut off direct access between Picton and Christchurch, via Kaikoura, State Highway 1 carried most of the traffic between Picton and Christchurch – 2,700 vehicles a day north of Kaikoura and around 550 of these were trucks.

State Highway 7, at Springs Junction, had 1500 vehicles a day on average with about 200 of these trucks.

Currently we believe that traffic volume on the inland state highway route – State Highways 7, 65, 6, 63 – is at least four times the 1500 a day of last week and will likely have a larger number of trucks than the pre-quake counts as the rail freight traffic which used to be carried along SH1 is transferred onto trucks, adding additional trucks to the new route.

The traffic numbers will also be boosted by the earthquake response and recovery traffic using the SH7 Murchison highway.

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Additional news

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