Ooooooohhhhh…. exciting. I love to see some progress on my favourite project of all time – the CBD rail tunnel. Last year ARTA and KiwiRail finally kicked the planning of what I consider to be Auckland’s most important transport project into action – by commissioning a fully study into the best alignment of the CBD Rail Tunnel, a full cost-benefit analysis of the project and finally all the documentation that would be required to lodge a notice of requirement to protect the route for the CBD rail tunnel. Pretty much once this work is complete, all we will need to do is find $1.5 billion or so and start digging (hey finding that kind of money can’t be that hard, just look at Puhoi-Wellsford!)
Phase one of the study – to determine the best alignment and station locations – has been completed and can be read here. Here’s the executive summary: Interestingly, there is some analysis of the potential benefits of the project (although I imagine these will be elaborated upon greatly in phase 2 of the study):
The graph below shows the improved accessibility to key parts of Auckland that the CBD Rail Tunnel will provide: Something to keep in mind is the key distinction between these accessibility improvements, which will only get better over time as Auckland intensifies and its population grows, and the supposed ‘time savings benefits’ of roading projects – which generally whittle away to nothing over the course of a few years due to induced demand. The CBD Rail Tunnel would double the number of people within a 30 minute rail trip of the central CBD – now that is impressive.
Turning to route options and station locations, the report highlights how this will undoubtedly be a challenging engineering project – due to the big climb from Britomart to Mt Eden stations. The diagram below gives us an indication of what is proposed – and shows that at some points, like around the Karangahape Road station, the rail tunnel will be 20-30m below ground level. That is pretty damn deep!
It looks like we might end up getting three new underground stations: Aotea (known as Midtown in previous reports, although I prefer Aotea as a name), Karangahape and Newton. I think a Newton station would be a great idea as the area around Exmouth Street and the top of Symonds Street has a LOT of apartments and in the future is likely to have even more.
In terms of station locations, there’s nothing drastically new to what has been proposed before, but it is interesting to see that (in combination with a future Parnell Station), once this tunnel is built the CBD will almost entirely be within a 500m walk of a train station.
In terms of route options, a number were looked at (generally similar options to what we saw in the 2004 study I think). Unfortunately the quality of the image below is fairly poor (if someone has a better quality version of this report, pretty pretty please send it to me), but it seems that perhaps the Newton station might be located more under Symonds Street than Exmouth Road (as it was in the 2004 study). This is an interesting change. Here’s the analysis of the best station locations: It seems as though the K Road and Aotea station locations are the same as what I have discussed previously.
The shortlist of station locations and route options is shown in the map below. It would seem as though there are some changes from previous studies (although I probably need to analyse the options a bit more to be sure). One of the main changes seems to be that this most recent study isn’t as concerned about getting the tracks to run underneath road alignments. I guess when you’re 20-30m below ground level it doesn’t matter so much. The pink alignment (1c) looks to be the shortest, which probably means that it is the steepest and therefore possibly not the best option. The purple alignment (6a) has its K Road station located much closer to the Queen St/K Road intersection rather than the Pitt Street/K Road intersection. This might have some advantages linking in with Queen Street more clearly. And finally, the more I look at the corner of Newton Road, Symonds Street and Khyber Pass Road as the location for an underground train station, the more I like it.
Sensitivity testing apparently showed option 6 (the yellow option) to be the highest scoring, although the other two followed quite closely.
The next step will be choosing a final route and then conducting further detailed design of that option, before undertaking a business case analysis of it and eventually generating all the documentation required to lodge a notice of requirement. The plan is for that notice of requirement to be lodged before the end of this year. I will certainly await phase 2 and phase 3 of the study with interest.