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Caught out by closure

A Wairarapa woman who was stranded in her car in Upper Hutt until after midnight due to narrowly missing the scheduled 9pm Remutaka Hill closure for maintenance believes communication about the closures needs to be improved.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, arrived at the closure site shortly after 9pm last Thursday, too late to drive on.

She waited till 12.30am on Friday for an escorted crossing by NZTA Waka Kotahi [NZTA], after finding out about the planned crossing from a friend. She fell asleep in her car as she waited.

“I just parked up in the cold and waited till 12.30 am and then went over the hill. They drive very slowly because they’ve got to take care of their workers. I got home at two o’clock in the morning,” she said.

NZTA regional manager maintenance and operations Mark Owen said he sympathised with the driver’s predicament, while stressing that places on escorted crossings are limited and need to be organised in advance.

“We do appreciate missing the closure time would have been a disturbing experience for this driver. We are glad they were included in an escorted crossing on the night and could complete their journey,” he said.

“However, drivers must be aware this may not always be possible. Bookings for escorted crossings are essential as space on them is limited. Drivers who turn up at a closure point without a booking may be turned away.”

Owen said NZTA has made strong efforts to ensure Remutaka Hill closures were well publicised.

“NZTA/Waka Kotahi and the Wellington Transport Alliance do everything possible to ensure that the planned night closures for maintenance works on Remutaka Hill are publicised as widely as possible.

“One of our most important and consistent messages across all our communications is the need for people to plan ahead. This is critical for closures on State Highway 2 Remutaka Hill given the only available detours are via Saddle Road and the Pahiatua Track, both of which add significantly to travel times between Wellington and Wairarapa.” The stranded driver understood the need for maintenance but thought planned closures could be later and better advertised.

“I appreciate the work that NZTA does on the road to maintain it. I understand the need to shut down the road to do it. I think starting at 9pm at night is too early,” the driver said.

“It’s not the worst thing in the world, and they do have to fix the road, but they could improve the signage at the bottom of the hill. When you are driving past it you don’t have time to read it.”

Owen listed radio and print advertising, media releases, traffic bulletins, email updates to subscribers, and social media channels where updates about Remutaka Hill closures were – and continue to be – posted.

“Because there is limited space for escorted crossings, bookings are essential. People turning up without a booking risk being turned away or having to wait at the closure point for the next opportunity. Our staff will do their best to help if someone has a genuine emergency,” Owen said.

“The best advice we can give is please be prepared. Plan ahead, make a booking, and if you’re unsure if the road is open, check online.”

A webpage is dedicated to Remutaka Hill night closures, where people can sign up for relevant email updates, while electronic message boards on SH2 also flag planned closures.

NZTA’s journey planner with up-to-date information on the status of SH2, including planned Hill closures can be found at journeys.nzta.govt.nz/highway-conditions

5 COMMENTS

  1. I think they’re advertised well, the closures I mean. People need to be a bit more proactive with their travel plans. I live in Napier now and I knew about the hill closures ages ago when they were first advertised. People saying they miss the roadside signs ought to pay more attention, they’re there for a purpose

  2. our plane was delayed from Auckland to Wellington. Trying to get home to Masterton after a long day at work in the city only to find that we would need to drive the long way around taking 3.5 hours to get home instead of 1.5hours. Its not really acceptable. I agree too you cant see the signs as you pass if you’re paying attention to the road as you should be. Finding information online is not always easy or quick enough also. Full agreement with the need to have a better alternative route rather than continually mending one that is not fit for purpose.

  3. How many signs 🤔 it’s on radio 📻 🤔 as for going over the hill escorted very slow 🐌 that’s our nanny state 🤔. We need another road the hill road is not fit for purpose at all it’s a goat track waiting for an accident to happen. NZTA IS FAILING IN IT’S ROLE TO KEEP OUR ROADS SAFE AND PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE.

    • We need another road? There is one small problem in the way. It is called the Remutaka Range. Years ago, a road tunnel was an election promise – until the maths were done. I think we live with it and remain grateful to whatever NZTA is called this year for keeping the road open as well as it does. And if people do not read road warning signs, should they even be using the road?

  4. I agree. It is put on Facebook, but not everyone is on FB. I see someone was concerned that their flight from Australia was delayed so they may not get across the hill before it closed

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