NZTA makes U-turn over Arthur's Pass chain ban policy

Authorities are backing down from their plan to close State Highway 73 during snowfall, following community backlash.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency announced two weeks ago that Arthurs Pass and Porters Pass would shut down during adverse icy conditions.

However, after an outcry from residents and businesses in the area, the agency has done a full U-turn on the policy.

In the first weekend of black ice under the regime Arthur's Pass was forced to close for a total of 19 hours, leaving many in the community concerned about their future if the pass was to close more frequently.

The change follows a town meeting at Castle Hill Village earlier this week which saw over 100 people turn out to have their voices heard.

Over 20,000 people had also signed a petition against the chain ban which was launched soon after the announcement of the policy. 

Waka Kotahi system manager Pete Connors says, the agency has "heard very clearly" the response coming from the community along SH73. 

Effective immediately, the arterial route between Canterbury and the West Coast will revert to a "chains essential" category.

“People will continue to be asked to carry and know how to fit vehicle snow chains on SH73, as on other South Island alpine and semi-alpine highways,” Mr Connors says. 

However, he warns that this doesn’t mean the road will always be open.

“As in previous winters, there will still be times where parts of the route will be closed due to snow and ice or, if road crews are required to assist stranded motorists.”

Otira Viaduct, Porters Pass and Craigieburn Cutting are all high-risk areas, therefore reminders for chains will be signalled in Springfield and Otira.

Despite the longer travel time, Waka Kotahi advises all West Coast residents in urgent need of Christchurch services, to travel via Lewis Pass.

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