Heavy rain continues to cause travel chaos on the South
Island's West Coast, with its main road closed for at least
another four days, and now railway lines being shut down.
The wild weather washed out Wanganui River bridge at
Harihari, south of Hokitika, on Wednesday, splitting the
coast in half, and causing holidaymakers to make massive
The latest flooding victims have been trains, with several
railway lines being shut down.
KiwiRail said it was continuing to assess and repair damage
at a number of sites on the West Coast.
The railway line between Christchurch and Greymouth, and
through the Buller Gorge remained closed and all train
services had been cancelled.
The section of line running through the Buller Gorge has been
particularly hard hit, with the difficult terrain in the area
hampering access by track workers to assess the situation and
begin the repair job.
Several bridges had been damaged, one significantly, and
slips and washouts had damaged track at a number of
locations, a spokeswoman said.
It is anticipated the line between Christchurch and Greymouth
will be back in operation within three to four days, allowing
the resumption of the Tranz Alpine and freight services
across the Southern Alps.
Coach services are in place for passengers with bookings on
the Tranz Alpine.
However, the section through the Buller Gorge will take
longer for repairs to be completed, and coal services from
the Westport area may not resume for at least a week.
KiwiRail is in close contact with Solid Energy over the
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) says
Wanganui bridge will be closed at least until midday next
"Next Tuesday's our target providing we get the Wanganui
River diverted and that there is no more bad weather,'' said
NZTA senior asset manager for the West Coast Mark Pinner.
"We are aware of how important this link is to the coast and
others regions and we're confident we'll get the highway
re-opened as planned if there are no setbacks.''
Flood waters from the river swept away a 40m-long of SH6 at
the northern approach to the bridge on Wednesday.
"Water levels have dropped about a metre overnight and that's
helping us divert the river back to its original course so
that we can start out preparations to rebuild the highway
lost in the flood,'' Mr Pinner said.
The river is still too high for structural engineers to make
a detailed inspection of the bridge, but Mr Pinner was
confident it was safe.
"The piles supporting the bridge have been driven deep into
the river bed and from what we can see already, they appear
to have withstood pressure from the huge volume of flood
water. However, we will still be taking a very close look at
the bridge when levels drop further so that we are satisfied
it is safe to use.''
Contractors are using heavy earth moving equipment to lift
large boulders along the edge of the Wanganui River to
Mr Pinner said the lost section of the highway would be
rebuilt with rocks and gravel.
"The reconstruction will be temporary one and further
upgrades will be needed later,'' Mr Pinner said.
"We recognise that this closure is affecting the lives and
livelihoods of the tourists, transport operators and farmers
who rely on this lifeline.
"Getting SH6 reopened is our number one national priority and
we thank people for their patience and understanding while we
finalise our plan of attack.''
It's not just travel plans that have been disrupted by the
Around 50 dairy farmers south of Hokitika have been forced to
dump milk because the road north was cut off.
BP 2GO Hokitika owner Lee Wu sympathised with the farmers,
saying they must be "gutted''.
He said while the festive season had been busy for him, the
last three days have been "like winter time, with no
customers at all''.
"It's been really quiet,'' Mr Wu said.
"With the bridge at Harihari out, and Arthur's Pass having
been closed for a wee while, we're cut off in the middle of
Petrol stocks were fine, he said, with terminals in
Christchurch and Nelson, able to bring supplies either by
Arthur's or Lewis passes.
Supermarkets in Greymouth and Westport said they'd had no
problems with supplies.
New World Hokitika owner-operator, Gary Lee praised truck
drivers for going the extra mile in getting foodstuffs to the
"There were a few delays but the drivers did an incredible
job and we're now ticking along as normal.''