Mt Victoria pilot second Tunnel

Evening Post 7 February 1974

Pilot Through But Start Date For Mt Victoria Tunnel Disputed

The Wellington City Council's $250,000 pilot tunnel underneath Mount Victoria broke through on the Hataitai end shortly after 10:00am today. Four weary, hot and dust-covered tunnellers climbed out of a hole which suddenly appeared to shake hands with the Mayor (Sir Francis Kitts) and down much needed bottles of cold beer waiting on the footpath for the occasion.

This morning's effort was the end of more than 12 months' work, blasting and boring the 2300-ft hole underneath the hill - almost parallel with and north of the existing road tunnel. It is eight feet in diameter and protected by sets of steel frames all the way. The pilot tunnel heralds in a much larger tunnel which is expected to be underway early next year. This is being designed by the council but will be financed by the National Roads Board.

But there appears to be a difference of opinion between the council and board as to when a start will be made on the tunnel which will be 32 feet wide and 21 feet in height. It will cost $6,000,000 with a further $3,000,000 for approaches. The district civil engineer of the Ministry of Works (Mr A T Proffitt), on the breakthrough site said it could be some years away. "There is no date set," he said.

But the Mayor said: "We're keeping our fingers crossed."

The council's chief engineer (Mr A D Martin) said that the council hoped that the National Roads Board [would] get on with the main tunnel now that the pilot tunnel was finished.

He said that construction was "likely to start some time next year," and that the job would take about two or three years to complete. It had not yet been decided whether the new tunnel would cater for pedestrians.

But it would be a great improvement on the present one. It would be for all traffic to the east. The present tunnel would then cater only for west-bound traffic.

"The pilot tunnel has been a good one to drill," said Mr Martin. "There have been no falls at all and we are very happy indeed. It will give contractors an idea of what they were likely to encounter in drilling the main tunnel, enabling tenders to be more realistic."