Alternate Route for Winter

NZTA Media Release

With the increased traffic and hugely increased number of heavy vehicles using the Picton to Christchurch Alternate Route this winter, the NZ Transport Agency is planning on managing the Lewis Pass as we used to do State Highway 1 via Kaikoura – either open or closed. The restriction of “chains essential” and “no towing vehicles” will not be an option this winter.*

This is also the system used on many other high traffic volume routes around the country where people are not expected to carry and use chains at short notice.

Many of the vehicles using the route, for example tour buses, may not all be equipped to use chains so the Transport Agency is increasing the resources, monitoring and equipment to ensure that we can run this route as efficiently as possible and keep it open as much as possible.

Crews will be working the route 24/7 over the winter months. Contractors will do their best to keep any closures as short as they can, but this will be dependent upon the severity of any storms.

More vehicles and trucks on the road also means that the road will be less prone to icing in general.

The Transport Agency is installing two new weather stations at St Arnaud and on the Lewis Pass so we can anticipate when more de-icing compound and resourcing may be needed. A large supply of compound is available.

The other advantage of the weather stations and the extra people working along the route is that this will enable crews to monitor the highway more effectively. If snow is going to intensify, the highway will be closed between specific points.

There will be an emergency cell phone site at the Boyle Lodge (DOC site, carpark, toilet) operational by the end of May. Short range cell towers have been erected at O’Sullivans bridge (SH6) and Maruia Township (SH65).

Information from the weather stations, feeding into travel advice, will be included in our media and social media updates and our web Traffic and Travel pages so people using the route know exactly what the conditions are for that day.

There is a text messaging service for freight operators already in use on the two alpine passes and this has been being extended to a new text messaging service for the Alternate Route, mainly targeted at freight and emergency services but also including cafes, garages and others.

(Anyone wanting to go on this Alternate Route text messaging system should email with their cell number and name.)

The Transport Agency’s Winter Journeys campaign for all road users on the Alternate Route – freight and non-freight drivers and residents – starting at the beginning of May is aiming to encourage all drivers to Be Safe and Be Prepared on this new main highway route over winter.

Police are also increasing their level of service for the Lewis Pass.

*These restrictions – no towing vehicles and chains required - will remain an option for Arthur’s Pass, SH73 (Porter’s and Arthur’s Passes) also the Rahu Saddle near Reefton and the Lindis Pass.