Lyttelton Tunnel gets $28m fire safety upgrade
Lyttelton Tunnel is to get a $28.7 million sprinkler system to improve safety and reduce the risk of lengthy closures in the event of a fire.
The project, due for completion by the end of next year, is the largest undertaken at the tunnel since it opened in 1964.
The system is designed to control and contain a fire until fire services reach the scene.
It involves the construction of two reservoirs, two pump stations, and the installation of 9km of pipe work and 2,400 fire sprinkler nozzles.
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In announcing the work on Thursday Transport Minister Simon Bridges said it would increase the resilience of a route that was an economic lifeline for the region because of the large amount of freight carried through it.
"A tunnel closure because of a fire could have a serious economic impact on Christchurch, Canterbury and the South Island.
"This deluge system once installed will reduce this risk and improve fire safety for tunnel users," said Bridges.
The contract has been awarded to McConnell Dowell, with work set to start in the coming weeks, and most of it will be conducted in the ducts above the tunnel.
Trucks account for about 20 per cent of tunnel traffic and the New Zealand Transport Agency said it would work with the local community and transport operators to minimise disruptions.
It is expected there will be 15 full night-time tunnel closures and up to 60 nights of single-lane operations.
The upgrade will also allow for other services to be installed in the tunnel.
They will include a new radio broadcast system transmitting communications from tunnel controllers and cameras to detect stationary vehicles.
Orion will install a back up power cable through the tunnel to shore up the electricity supply to the port, and the council will put in an extra waste water pipe.
Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson said the upgrade was a good investment in key infrastructure and would future-proof the tunnel.
"It's a good use of money because even when Evans Pass [to Sumner] reopens, the tunnel is still the main route to Lyttelton."
Dyson said she was not aware of any major incidents in the tunnel, but given the hazardous goods that passed through it, it would be reassuring to have the extra fire safety measures in place.
The additional power and waste water connections to Lyttleton were also welcome.
"Everyone in Canterbury would say hallelujah to having these three projects done at the same time."