Source: New Zealand Transport Agency
Convoys of buses for visitors/tourists and essential services vehicles** into and out of Milford Sound Piopiotahi are continuing this week, with a small change in frequency and timing from Thursday.
- People wanting to get into Milford need to book a bus through a tourism operator to be part of the convoy.
- Private vehicle drivers and people in their own cars or campervans cannot currently use the highway, which was badly damaged in the early February torrential rain with repairs underway and the road down to a single lane in several places.
The convoys including buses started last Friday (21 February). They have run every day, three return journeys a day, since then and will continue this week so long as weather and road repairs allow them, says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Journey Manager Peter Brown.
“The convoys have gone well to date with relatively good weather and we are very pleased to have that visitor lifeline back in place to Milford Sound Piopiotahi,” he says.
Tuesday (today) and Wednesday timetable, same as over the weekend
The convoys for this week up to and including Wednesday (25 and 26 February) will be the same as for the past weekend ie three trips in, three trips out, but please check anyway at this web map link for confirmation: https://www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/areawarnings/291706(external link)
Vehicles carrying visitors have to have a minimum of eight seats for these days.
Catch the bus – today and tomorrow’s timetable
People are encouraged to catch a bus through a tourism operator from Te Anau or Queenstown. This is the timetable to the end of Wednesday (26 February):
- 10.00 am Cascade Creek
- 11.30 am Chasm Gate back
- 12.30 pm Cascade Creek
- 1.30 pm Chasm Gate back
- 2.30 pm Cascade Creek
- 4.00 pm Chasm Gate back.
Changes from Thursday to minimum number of seats and timetable
On Thursday 27 February, the times and places of starting and ending the escorted convoys will alter slightly with slightly different start and departure times.
- There is also an approved adventure tourism operators-only convoy limited to ten places at 8 am, inwards only (ie narrower criteria than essential services, not including any large buses.)
The 10 am, midday and mid-afternoon convoys inwards line up with the boat operators’ timetable in the Sound. These are the convoys which will include tourist buses.
The new departure point (known locally as “Chains On”) is also closer to the Homer Tunnel on its western side, reducing the distance to travel in convoy.
The other change from Thursday is the minimum number of seats a bus must have – six down from eight. Only buses or vehicles with a minimum capacity of six seats will be accepted into the convoy and all tourist vehicles must carry a P (licensed to carry passengers) endorsement.
Convoys into Milford Sound
Convoys out of Milford Sound
|8 am (approved adventure tourism operators only)||East Gate|
|10 am||East Gate||10.45 am||Chains On*|
|Midday||East Gate||1.15 pm||Chains On*|
|2.45 pm||East Gate||4 pm||Chains On*|
*Chains On is the spot midway between the Homer Tunnel and the Chasm on the western side of the tunnel. This means the convoy time/distance will be shorter from this Thursday.
** Who/what qualifies as an essential service?
Vehicles and drivers who qualify as essential services include people transporting the following items: Fuel, food, freight, septic/ rubbish disposal, trades goods. Also contractors, staff of Milford Sound businesses in vans or coaches, commercial fishing industry and associated trades, air traffic control personnel. These vehicles will travel with the tourist buses.
For background on SH94, the Milford Road, including convoy operating guidelines, see this web page: https://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/sh94-milford-road/
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