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Hill road closure sensible option, union says

Closures for roadworks are essential to help safety for all drivers, a union delegate said yesterday. PHOTO/FILE

MARCUS ANSELM

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Health and safety must always come first and remains the primary factor for road improvements and closures, says a union delegate.

The New Zealand Transport Agency [NZTA] announced a programme of closures over the next year for State Highway 2 [SH2] over the Remutaka Hill.

The hill road will be closed on four Sunday nights and three blocks of five nights between November 2019 and September 2020 for annual maintenance and slip prevention work.

First Union delegate Neil Allport said the welfare of workers and drivers was paramount.

Allport, an experienced driver who works across the country, said the stretch of road was one of the trickiest in New Zealand.

“They won’t be closing those roads to play tiddlywinks on,” he said.

“The road is terribly dangerous as it is. Remutaka Hill is shocking. I don’t drive it nowadays, I used to, and it’s no different now than what it was.”

He said he thought the union would share his perspective that “they’re not closing that road for nothing”.

“The work’s got to be done. How on earth are they going to do it if they don’t close the roads?”

Allport said he had his own experience of a close call on the hill, which he described as “shocking”.

He said companies needed to make plans as they have had plenty of notice, to change schedules or take alternative routes.

“You can’t stop and think enough about who could be coming home and who couldn’t be coming home. It could be me not going home to my wife and grandkids. It could be any driver not going home to their family.”

NZTA’s Mark Owen said the timings of the Remutaka Hill Road closures were carefully chosen to minimise disruption to the various groups of road users over the next 12 months as much as possible

“Our focus was to balance the needs of logging and haulage companies with the needs of other key affected road users such as daily commuters, businesses and holiday makers, and to ensure we weren’t planning closures through holiday periods where the volume of traffic is higher.”

“We also had to consider the needs of our workers and other roadworks scheduled in early January that could not be moved.”

Owen, the agency’s regional transport systems manager, said it had engaged with key logging and heavy haulage stakeholders prior to the final decision on the closure dates to ensure they had a say.

He said the dates we initially proposed for two of the three five-night closures have been rescheduled following our engagement with logging and heavy haulage stakeholders.

At the request of logging and heavy haulage interests new dates were identified in January and May rather than five consecutive night closures in February and March.

“The schedule of closures will provide routine maintenance opportunities on an approximately bi-monthly basis, particularly through the winter months, which should reduce the need for planned daytime works for activities such as channel clearing.”

The road was closed due to an accident on Wednesday night.

  • Planned road closures start next month on November 10, with the first five-night stretch of closures beginning on Sunday, November 24.

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