Some great news with the first physical works to enable the City Rail Link kicking off following a dawn blessing yesterday
Preliminary work for Auckland’s largest infrastructure project, the City Rail Link (CRL) started today with a dawn blessing of the work site by Manawhenua.
About 80 people gathered in the still of the morning on the corner of Victoria and Albert Streets in the central city as kaumatua blessed the worksite between Swanson and Wellesley Streets where the first part of the $2.5billion project has begun.
CRL project director Chris Meale says the start of work was a great milestone for AT and the project team.
“Today was a celebration, but for most Aucklanders, the first piece of work will be largely invisible. A replacement stormwater pipe will be built under Albert Street so that the existing one can be removed when work on the CRL tunnels starts in the middle of next year.”
Those gathered, including Mayor Len Brown, acknowledged that it was a day that Aucklanders have been contemplating for almost a century.
“In 1923 Railways Minister Gordon Coates gave his support for a city-to-Morningside underground rail line that never happened. In the 1970s, Mayor Sir Dove-Myer Robinson’s rapid-rail proposal met a similar fate,” says the mayor.
“Today’s blessing means that in the coming months, Aucklanders will see the CRL starting to take shape”.
Mr Meale says when the works started in earnest midway through next year, people would have to think about how they travel to and through the city.
“Public transport or active modes will be wisest but for those who don’t have that option, using parking buildings closest to city entry points will be sensible rather than driving through the city”, says Mr Meale.
It is my guess that even though the enabling works will only see the tunnel built as far as Wyndham St, from now on we won’t see the project stop until the entire thing is completed. I expect the government and the council will announce a funding deal in the new year that will see the main works start as soon as possible – which AT have suggested in the past is some time in 2018. The reality is that now they don’t have a whole lot of a choice about it, this is for a few reasons.
- Patronage is growing so strongly that if current rates continue we’ll hit the target they imposed for an early start of 20 million trips by 2020 some time in 2017 – that is unless capacity constraints at peak times slow growth but that will create it’s own pressure.
- We’re hearing a lot of the business and development community are pushing for the government to get on with it. Albert St is undergoing almost a complete makeover over the next few years with a number of new buildings due to be under construction and almost all of the rest of the buildings undergoing renovations. They want the upgraded streetscape that comes after the project and the last thing they want is to still have a hole outside their shiny new doors with noisy construction work still going on.
- Given the points above I don’t think they’ll want their lack of commitment to the project becoming a festering sore in the local body elections.
While I expect the project to be brought forward I suspect the nature of the funding may be different. Perhaps through a deal such as the council paying it’s share upfront with the government’s share being paid during the second half – which would be around 2020 meaning the government could still claim it wasn’t funding the project till then.
I’m looking forward to works really getting underway on the tunnels themselves which is due to start around May next year.