Councillor Andy Foster, who chairs Wellington City Council’s Transport and Urban Development Committee, says the work to strengthen the tunnel portals and adjacent retaining walls has been planned in a way that will allow the tunnel to continue to be safely used.
“The tunnel is used by about 400 buses each weekday and is a key part of our public transport network so finding a way to make it stronger and safer and keep it in operation was a top priority,” he says. “There may be brief delays on occasions during the day, but every effort will be made to minimise disruption especially at peak times.”
Full closure of the tunnel is unlikely, except towards the end of the project when weekend closures will be needed for safety reasons while the portals are repaired and painted. When the tunnel has to close, information on changes to services and alternative routes will be available at www.Metlink.org.nz.
The strengthening work is being done because structural assessments have shown that while the tunnel itself is likely to withstand a reasonably large earthquake, the adjacent hillside and old tunnel entrances could come down and block this important bus route.
The work, which will cost $1.1 to $1.3 million, includes building new buttresses and beams to reinforce the existing tunnel entrances and retaining walls, and drilling and installing long rods to anchor the structures to the hillside. It will be noisy at times.
Cr Foster says the project is part of an ongoing Council programme to protect key routes by strengthening tunnels, road and pedestrian bridges and building new retaining walls that are designed to perform well in earthquakes.
A site office will be established on the Mount Victoria side of the tunnel in the car park area at the top of Pirie Street but most of the initial work will be on the eastern (Hataitai) side.
Hours of work: 7.30am–6pm, Monday to Saturday
- Low noise operations on occasional Sundays
- No work during the Christmas break: 22 December 2014 – 5 January 2015
- Contractor: Construction Techniques Ltd
- Engineer: OPUS International Consultant
The tunnel, which was originally designed for trams, first opened to the public on 16 April 1907. Trolley buses began using it for the first time in 1963.