Half-hour queue at Saddle Rd as drivers refuse to use Pahiatua Track video

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Debs Cooney of Traffic Safe NZ tells of being on duty for the westbound 3pm traffic queue using the Saddle Rd.

It seems drivers would rather queue at the Saddle Rd for half an hour than wind their way along the Pahiatua Track.

Saddle Rd, the more popular of the two alternative routes to the Manawatu Gorge, is closed to westbound traffic between 9am and 3pm most days while the NZ Transport Agency does maintenance work. 

Despite dozens of pot holes, broken wheels and speeds so slow at times you could bike faster, drivers are still choosing the Saddle Rd.

Dozens of drivers queue at the Woodville end of the Saddle Rd, waiting for maintenance work to finish.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Dozens of drivers queue at the Woodville end of the Saddle Rd, waiting for maintenance work to finish.

From 2.30pm on Thursday, vehicles started  queuing up at the Woodville end of Saddle Rd. Once 3pm hit, a stream of about 50 vehicles revved their engines for the journey to Palmerston North. 

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There has been pressure on both alternative routes since State Highway 3 through the gorge was closed by slips in April. The road remains closed indefinitely because of fears about the stability of the hillside.

Danielle Rastrick waits half an hour at the Woodville end of the Saddle Rd to save on fuel costs she would incur if she ...
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Danielle Rastrick waits half an hour at the Woodville end of the Saddle Rd to save on fuel costs she would incur if she took the Pahiatua Track.

Danielle Rastrick works in Dannevirke and lives at the cusp of the Saddle Rd on the Ashhurst end.

Rastrick said the half-hour wait was well worth the amount saved in fuel costs as there was no point driving the extra 40 kilometres along the Pahiatua Track to get home.

Rastrick used the time to catch up on studies and to phone friends. 

Traffic Safe NZ worker Debs Cooney said about 98 per cent of drivers would rather queue up from as early as 2.15pm, waiting in anticipation for the Saddle Rd to reopen. 

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Truck drivers were the most patient, whereas drivers in cars tried to push their way past the road closure with reasons such as running late for appointments, Cooney said. 

Cooney was verbally abused by drivers most days, but she tried to remind them that she was just doing her job by redirecting traffic.

"I just don't tolerate the anger."

Wayne Donaldson, who was parked up from about 2.40pm, said he saved about 20 minutes, even with the wait time.

Donaldson is an electrician who drives between Dannevirke and Palmerston North near-daily. He said taking the Pahiatua Track meant he had to loop back through Palmerston North just to get back to the Ashhurst end.

He preferred the Saddle Rd but said it could be a nightmare trying to  avoid pot holes when driving  at night.

Just last week, Donaldson had a blown-out tyre. 

Tararua District resident Scott Mailman said he would have got to the Palmerston North city centre faster by using the Pahiatua Track, but he chose to wait 20 minutes to save petrol.

The NZ Transport Agency also made mistakes in its communication on Facebook about Saddle Rd maintenance and has apologised for the confusion caused.  

 

 - Stuff

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