Awatere Road Rail Bridge 1902 to 2007


For over 100 years the bridge at Seddon over the Awatere River has carried road and rail traffic, a unique link on State Highway One.  This all changed in October 2007 when the new road bridge opened.

Awatere Rail BridgeAwatere Rail Bridge, Research box: Transport Rail Blenheim-Seddon, Marlborough Museum Archives, 0000.900.0583. Click image to enlarge

The original bridge was completed in April 1902 and officially opened on the 10th of October 1902. It was the cause for major celebration. The day was declared a public holiday in Blenheim and 1500 people travelled free to Seddon for the opening.  The opening ceremony was carried out by Sir Joseph Ward, Acting Premier and Minister of Railways. The town of Starborough was renamed Seddon at this ceremony.

The bridge was designed by Peter Seton Hay and built by the contractors Messrs Scott Bros of Christchurch for £22,500. The addition of the wind barrier increased the price by a further £1,118.  Building began in April 1899, taking three years to complete. The bridge had the unique feature of an upper rail deck and a lower road deck with wooden decking bolted to the steel structure. It was single lane with vehicles having to wait at the end of the bridge while other vehicles travelling in the opposite direction negotiated the bridge.  

The 2007 road bridge, costing around $15,000,000 took HEB Smithbridge less than two years (including the approach roads).

Trains continue to rumble over the rail bridge, but the frustrating wait for road traffic is a thing of the past. Trucks no longer need to worry about being wedged on a bridge that was designed for traffic of the early 1900’s and car occupants will not be shaken to bits on the wooden decking.


Updated: March 31, 2020

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  • When I was young it was one of the highlights on the trip to Christchurch, along with the wooden one way combined road and rail bridge over the Ure river, and the Kaikoura coast with all the seals and dolphins and the exciting road tunnels!

    Posted by Christine Burn, 30/11/2016 6:15pm (8 years ago)

  • this is a good websight

    Posted by Jordan, ()

  • The bridge deck was not always as rough as it was in later years. It was kept smooth for many years until someone decided that it was better for the bridge for the deck to be attached in such a way that it moved, rattled and bounced most unpleasantly. The best approach was to cross it as quickly as was consistent with safety: the slower you went, the harder you bounced.

    Posted by Donna, ()

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Further sources - Awatere Road Rail Bridge 1902 to 2007


  • The Cyclopedia of New Zealand: volume 5. Nelson, Marlborough and Westland provincial districts (1906) Christchurch, N.Z. : Cyclopedia Company, Ltd.
  • Kennington, A.L. (1978) The Awatere: a district and its people. Blenheim, N.Z. : Marlborough County Council
  • McIntosh, A.D. (Ed.)(1940) Marlborough: a provincial history. Blenheim, N.Z. : Marlborough Provincial Historical Committee



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