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Splendid weather favoured the official ceremony of opening the tunnel. Three hundred Canterbury and half as many West Coast people, including members of Parliament and of local bodies from all parts of the provinces, arrived in trains and cars.
A large crowd gathered to witness the firing of the shot which signified that the headings were pierced. This was a polite fiction, as the connection was made some time ago.
Speeches were made by Sir James Allen, Sir William Fraser, the Hon. G. W. Russell, Mr H. Holland (Mayor of Christchurch), and Mr Hewlett (on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce). Mr Holland said the Tunnel League hoped to see the trains running in four years.
At 2.30 p.m. from the Bealey mouth of the tunnel, the Acting Prime Minister, Sir W. Fraser electrically fired a shot one mile and a-half in the tunnel, breaking down the headings, and the band played the National Anthem.
Sir W. Fraser said he looked upon this work as one of dominion importance. The pass was discovered in 1864 by Arthur Dudley Dobson, whom he was pleased to see present.
After referring to the history of the railway and the tunnel, the Minister, alluding to those who had worked for the railway, mentioned Mr Seddon, and said he was pleased to see representatives of the family present.
Regarding its completion, he said money was available for public works only after war requirements had been met, and the completion would depend upon how long the war lasted.
He sincerely hoped that, if circumstances were favourable, it would be completed in two years or two years and a-half; but the only pledge he could give was that he would do all he could to see the work finished as early as possible. He complimented the engineers on the accuracy of the work, and called for three cheers for the engineering staff and the workmen.
The Defence Department would, no doubt, be the last to claim that it never makes mistakes, but nevertheless some of the things it is responsible for are Gilbertian.
In one instance a man was called in the ballot, but as he was suffering from an injury to his leg, received through falling off a horse, he, prior to going before the Medical Board, armed himself with two medical testimonies certifying to his unfitness. The board, however, passed him as fit.
He then appealed to the Military Service Board on the grounds of undue hardship, as he was the only assistant of his father on the farm. The appeal was dismissed, and the man went to camp.
Later he returned home on leave, and the next incident in the story occurred when two military policemen called at his father's house, ordered him to put on his uniform and come with them to report himself at the Defence Office. On arrival, it was discovered the military police had got the wrong man.
Big race traffic
Upwards of 1000 motor cars from the south crossed the Ashburton traffic bridge last week, bound for the Grand National meeting in Christchurch.
Several numbers have been taken of persons exceeding the speed limit over the bridge (10 miles). On Sunday a motorist passed through the town at 40 miles per hour, and did not attempt to reduce his speed on the bridge.
- ODT, 22.8.1918.
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