Drivers fear being trapped in Lyttelton Tunnel
Lyttelton Tunnel traffic drops since quakeJOELLE DALLY
Motorists too scared to drive through the Lyttelton Tunnel for fear of a major aftershock may be contributing to a big drop in traffic using it.
NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) figures show about 2000 fewer cars travel through the tunnel each day now than before the February 2011 earthquake.
This excludes heavy traffic, which has increased by 5 per cent because of the closure of the Evans Pass-Sumner road and demolition material being taken to the port.
Beckenham dance teacher Hayley Woodham was so scared to go through the tunnel after the quake that she had hypnotherapy to help overcome her fear.
She had recurring nightmares of the tunnel collapsing while she was inside and was too frightened to go through it on her own.
Her band, Runaround Sue, practises in Lyttelton once a week, so she had the drummer pick her up from Heathcote Valley and take her through the tunnel.
A couple of times she had opted to drive to Lyttelton via Governors Bay.
After Woodham had hypnotherapy she felt she was able to follow someone through the tunnel in her car and can now drive through it herself.
"I still freak out every now and then, just because it's four minutes, which is quite long. When I get up to the two-minute mark I turn the music up really loud to try to distract myself," she said.
Photographer Johannes van Kan previously ran his studio from Lyttelton, but when he moved it to Merivale, friends and clients were relieved.
"A really good friend said, 'We hated coming to your house'. Some of it is about being separated from their families," he said.
"If something happened while they were on one side of the tunnel, they may not be able to get back."
One client was concerned about being trapped inside the tunnel, van Kan said.
"It's never going to happen, but just the thought of it is enough to put them off."
NZTA senior assets manager Barry Stratton said the tunnel was "just as safe now" as it was before the February 2011 quake.
Detailed inspections found no serious concerns and only cosmetic repairs were pending. The steel structure supporting the ventilation fans had been damaged in the quake but was promptly repaired and strengthened.
Some of the pipes supplying fire hydrants in the wall had cracked and water had flowed into the tunnel. These had since been isolated and were being repaired, he said.
Cosmetic repairs, such as replacing cracked and broken tiles, were a low priority, "given the current demands".
"Our key focus has been on maintaining the tunnel in a safe and functional manner as a critical transport link," Stratton said.
NZTA figures show that in early 2011 about 11,200 vehicles travelled through the tunnel each day, 11.3 per cent of which were heavy vehicles.
About 9400 vehicles now travel through the tunnel each day, 16 per cent being heavy traffic.
From 2007 to 2010, traffic averaged about 10,800 vehicles a day.
Stratton said the traffic counter was damaged in the February quake, and counting did not resume until last December.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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