Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kaikoura rail prospects

The rail from Parnassus through to Kaikoura was the very last (because the toughest) main rail link to be completed.  In 1940 ish (see and ).  There was the start of an alternative routing north out of Parnassus during the Depression and the embankments for the bridge over the Leader River are still there as evidence of that.  There was also a rail branch to Waiau, but that vanished in the 60's/70's rationalisations although the line from Waipara to Waikari is still extant, used for heritage excursions.  From Waikari to Waiau is easy country with one major river crossing (Hurunui) only.

But the talk of 'alternative routings' is fraught:  the entire area from Waiau (inland) or Conway (coast) is riven with faults, has steep gullies (inland road SH70) plus even after the much-photographed and ooh'd-aah'd over coastal section north from Oaro,  there is a long climb out of Oaro south through steep coastal cliffs, through a tunnel (Conway Bluff) then up the Conway to Parnassus.  And as those faults run across the line of the coast and of any alternative route, no route can be thought of as 'safer'.

For my money, extensive rock shelters would proof the line against the inevitable slips and rockfalls:  these are common after heavy rain in any case, let alone quake/fault events. And at least we know exactly where all the vulnerabilities are, now.   Shelters would also preserve the views, which is a major drawcard for the whole area.  They won't be cheap, though...