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Major road-rail issues post Kaikoura quake

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/11/2016

Road access to Kaikoura will be restored in days via the old State Highway 70 but the coastal road could take much longer to repair.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said while time was a factor, the government didn't want to rush in and do an emergency fix on State Highway 1.

He's also considering the possibility a new road could take a different route.

"Although we want to do this in the most timely fashion we can, we also want to make sure we're doing the best job we possibly can," he said.

"And if to some extent that means some realignment we will do that."

Until that happens the old SH70, now known as Inland Kaikoura Road, between Culverden and Kaikoura will provide road access.

Funding for new roads and repairs will come from the budget's transport fund, which includes emergency funding that was increased after the Christchurch earthquake.

"So just on the conventional transport agency funding we're looking at about $500 million in round terms that we could apply say to a State Highway 1 situation," he said.

"It's not really a question of cost here, if it's more than that $500 million we're good for it, and the Crown will be good for it on top of that land transport fund, the real issue about all of this is the ability on the ground to get people in to do it."

Contractors are assessing the safety of key South Island state highway routes. SH1 from Picton to Seddon was open but it was closed between Seddon and Cheviot.

An alternative inland state highway route was re-established on Monday afternoon between Picton and Christchurch, via Murchison and the Lewis Pass.

Agency highway manager Neil Walker says its priority is to assess the large slips blocking SH1 on either side of Kaikoura.

He said it was too soon to tell how long it will take to fully assess all of the damage on South Island roads.

"Some have already been assessed and work has been planned for some sections of the highway with less severe damage. Other sites are currently inaccessible by road."

KiwiRail says the rail line between Picton and Christchurch had suffered significant damage, especially around Kaikoura and it expects it to be closed for some time.

Passenger trains in Wellington are back up and running after safety checks and freight lines in the North Island are also operational.

Chief executive Peter Reidy says while there is still an enormous amount of work to do in the South Island it is important to get the North Island network up and running.

"It was critical for freight customers and passengers that the North Island network was fixed as quickly as possible."

It would now work with its partners on tackling the significant transport issues in the South Island, he said.

Interisland ferries are set to resume on Tuesday, carrying freight and vehicle passengers only.

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