Milford Sound, SH94, proposed wider access plan

5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMarch 5, 2020

Good progress has been made at sites like Raspberry Creek. (Raspberry Creek is 2km from the Homer Tunnel on the Te Anau/east side. It is an avalanche path in winter and is named after the raspberries that were grown by workers who built the tunnel.)

A number of changes to increase access opportunities into and out of Milford Sound have been proposed by the NZ Transport Agency.

The proposed changes are likely to be in place from Monday, 16 March, once all details are finalised.

State Highway 94 east of the Homer Tunnel in particular, was badly damaged in heavy rain early in February.

Since 21 February, daily convoys of buses for visitors/tourists as well as essential services vehicles** have been operating, restoring the tourism link to the Sound.

“The convoys have made it possible for us to repair the road‘s surface much more quickly than we originally anticipated. We are now close to being able to increase access,” says NZTA journey manager Peter Brown.

“The convoys were primarily designed to assist with the immediate repair operation of the road and to ensure local businesses would remain viable.”

The proposed changes and broadening of access were discussed at a meeting with local people and those most affected by the highway‘s damage in Te Anau this week.

“In an effort to increase access and provide a way in for hunters, fishers, trampers and others who need to take their own vehicles and boats into the Sound, a new system of open times has been proposed,” says Brown.

If confirmed by the NZTA, the new schedule is likely to begin on Monday, 16 March.

Key points are:

  • The convoy distance will be shortened to the east side of the Homer Tunnel – East Gate (Hollyford turnoff) to Monkey Creek, around 6km, taking 12 to 15 minutes.

  • More daily convoys than the three main tourism bus convoys currently taking place are proposed, running between 8am and 4pm. (Exact times still to be confirmed.)

  • The highway could open to other road users – people with their own vehicles including hunters, fishers, trampers, people towing boats, campervan drivers, after 5pm each night and before 7am each morning, i.e. outside when the highway repair crews are working.

  • Outside the short 6km section, where convoys are required in daytime, SH94 would be open 24/7 (barring weather-related or roadwork events or avalanche hazards closing the road).

  • The schedule of daytime convoys will need to continue throughout the highway‘s repair period – which could be many months.

  • People in private vehicles, rental cars or campervans wanting to get into Milford Sound after 7am and before 5pm would still need to catch a  tourism bus from Queenstown, Te Anau or Knobs Flat.

No change this week or next week

Brown reiterated that the existing schedule of three return convoys for bus passengers and essential services people was continuing this week and next week.

Check this web link for any changes in the convoys or operating schedules: https://www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/areawarnings/291706 


Timetable of convoys this week and week starting 9 March:

Convoys into

Milford Sound

Convoy start-point

Convoys out of

Milford Sound

Convoy start-point

8am (approved adventure tourism operators only)

East Gate (near Hollyford Road intersection)

 

 

10am

East Gate

10.45am

Chains On*

Midday

East Gate

1.15pm

Chains On*

2.45pm

East Gate

4pm

Chains On*

*Chains On is midway between the Homer Tunnel and the Chasm on the western side of the tunnel.

** Who is eligible for the essential services convoys?

Vehicles and drivers who qualify as essential services include people transporting the following items: Fuel, food, freight, septic/rubbish disposal, trades goods. Also contractors, staff of Milford Sound businesses in vans or coaches, commercial fishing industry and associated trades, and air traffic control personnel.