'Race against time': Army, contractors rush to finish Waiho Bridge rebuild

Fine weather has helped keep work on track on the West Coast as crews work to rebuild the Waiho River Bridge.

It's a major operation rebuilding this vital link on the West Coast - pushing a new bridge out over the river to the other side.

More than 50 men and women are working onsite at the Waiho River, reinstating the 170 metre-long bridge.

"This is probably the biggest Bailey bridge for the last 20 years that we've done, just due to the length and complexity with the location of it," said Downer Contract Manager Samuel Horvarth.

The bridge's washout in heavy rain two weeks ago cut off access between Franz Josef and Fox Glacier - costing the Westland tourism community up to $3 million a day in lost revenue.

For the contractors, it's a race against time - building the bridge in sections, alongside the bridge main launch area.

"We're running the programme, as many parts as we can at the same time, to get everything in place as quickly as we can," said NZTA Maintenance contract manager Moira Whinham.

Sixteen engineers from the New Zealand Army are speeding up the process, along with a coffee cart to provide sustenance and a morale boost for workers.

"The Army called me up and said, 'Oh would you mind coming and supporting the crew by serving them some hot drinks and hot food?'" said Bruce Bay Coffee Cart owner Catherine Montague.

Tuesday's mission involved joining pre-fabricated sections of the truss bridge one by one and pushing it across the piers on "rocking rollers".

There's still two days of round the clock work to be down once the bridge reaches the other side, laying down wooden decking and screwing down the large structure.

The target is to reopen the bridge by late Friday, finally linking the main tourist route and providing a welcome boost to the Westland community.