Thousands more to see devastated city on night-time tours

3:34 pm on 7 November 2011

Twilight trips into Christchurch's red zone begin next week, allowing about 7,000 more people to visit the city's devastated centre.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority organised the tours following calls from the public to be allowed to get into the central business district, and weekend trips started on Saturday.

CERA says the twilight trips, running from Monday to Wednesday, could go on for more than three weeks if there is enough demand.

All up, the red zone trips will take about 18,000 people into the city centre.

Sombre mood on first tours

Passengers on the first tours on Saturday afternoon say they saw a city in a much worse state than they had expected with some describing the mood on the bus as sombre.

People spoken to by Radio New Zealand say the half-hour trip was overwhelming, and seeing so many demolished and partially demolished buildings puts the scale of the recovery in perspective.

Karen Annison and her mother, Maureen, said they were overwhelmed at seeing the extent of the devastation, and found they would be trying to remember the particular building on a demolished site.

Graham White, who worked in the city for years as a window cleaner, said he has looked through every cordon fence, but being on the inside was a totally different experience.

"All the buildings that I used to clean are gone, I'm gobsmacked by it, it's really been destroyed."

The tours will run every Saturday and Sunday, until mid-December, with twilight tours also being held on Monday evenings from 14 November.

Six buses will be used on the half hour tours, for which more than 7000 people have booked. Demand was so high CERA phone lines crashed this week.

No-one will be allowed off the buses once they enter the red zone and strict safety standards will be in place.

People are being asked to make a gold coin donation to cover costs.