Today is a day that Auckland has been waiting for, for nearly 100 years and that even a few years ago seemed like a distant pipe dream, the City Rail Link officially gets under way. The CRL is easily the project/topic that this blog has talked about more than any other having been tagged in over 400 posts, you could almost call it our raison d’être. Whether it’s been about why the project is needed, it’s history, design and everything in between there can’t be too many angles we haven’t talked about at some point.

CRL Route

The current incarnation of the CRL has had a greater level of scrutiny than probably any transport project in New Zealand’s history. It’s be subject to numerous studies, reviews with the sole intention of tying finding a reason not to build the project and of course a fair amount of political bluster. It’s even had targets applied before it will be approved, something no other transport project has had.

On the political bluster, one of the most famous instances came from then Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee who as you can see below said “I take big issue with the suggestion that the city rail link is useful or popular.” Of course that latter part of the project has even ranked highly with AA members with previous surveys by them showing nearly 80% supported it.

But that’s largely all behind us now. Today is a celebration that the project is actually happening.

The CRL will be nothing short of transformational for Auckland and in a way that the city has rarely seen. In this regard it will be up there with the likes of the Harbour Bridge in terms of impact and especially for the west which essentially gets shifted much closer to town. Like the Harbour Bridge it will not only generate significant transport benefits but will also drive a lot of land use change, especially in the west. This is shown in this image which was later copied by Auckland Transport. Also like the Harbour Bridge I suspect most people probably won’t realise just who big of a transformation the project will have till it’s actually complete and operating.

CRL Times Western Line

Not only will the CRL speed up existing trips through shorter distances and higher frequencies, the new stations at Aotea and K Rd will open up much more of the city centre to the rail network and that will also drive increased usage and help with the regeneration like Britomart has for that part of the city. For the stations, Aotea is also predicted to surpass Britomart and become the busiest station on the network

Aotea Station Design Platform Mar - 16
The platform of the new Aotea Station

With the Britomart cul-de-sac busted open, the CRL will allow for significant extra capacity to be provided added across the network and there will be enough space for more than 30,000 people hour able to be delivered. That’s equivalent to 12-15 motorway lanes. One of the reasons the CRL has passed the tests put before it is that there isn’t any other option that move close to that number of people in the space or without even more massive costs.

Karangahape Station Entrance Mercury Lane 2
The Mercury Lane Entrance to Karangahape Rd Station

To get to this stage has been a massive effort by a lot of people over many years. Len Brown has obviously been front and centre in championing the project and I think Auckland has a lot to thank him for as a result. I suspect history will be kind to Len and we will look back on this time and be grateful for what he has managed to achieve. There have also been a huge number of people at the Council, Auckland Transport and elsewhere who have put a lot of time and effort into investigating and supporting the project. I hope they’re proud to finally see construction getting under way. Of course we also wouldn’t be in this position to celebrate had it not been for the efforts of the likes of Christine Fletcher and Mike Lee who were respectively the keys to getting Britomart and electrification signed off and built. Those efforts have driven patronage to ever increasing highs.

Amazingly despite construction just about to start some of the councillors who have consistently opposed the project are still calling for it to be stopped. Last night on NewsHub – which put together an good piece on the project – Councillor Cameron Brewer was calling for a halt to the project until the government are on board while elsewhere Councillor George Wood also wanted the project put on hold and attention focused elsewhere. Thankfully for the city, these two councillors and others like them who have always voted against the project have not managed to slow it down.

It’s all pretty exciting and AT are saying the ground-breaking will be both significant and spectacular. As such they’ll be live streaming it and the details for that will be on their website. The ceremony starts at 10:30.

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  1. Now if only we can spend similar money to reduce vehicle travel times by the same amount that would be a good allround outcome and Auckland may be less stressful to traveverse. I think most people who raise their voices about this project are concerned that budget blowouts may cripple the city and ratepayers. I hope all contractors are locked into fixed price results and not open ended time and materials. Has the Council been smart enough to do that?

    1. It’s not possible to reduce vehicle travel times by as much as the CRL does for that level of money, couldn’t even build a fraction of road capacity for that kind of money. If you could the govt with their previous hatred for the CRL would have done it already.

      Also we’ve spent considerably more than that even just in a few years on roads. The Western Ring Road projects alone are about $4 billion.

      1. Why do we need to reduce vehicle travel times?, they are already significantly faster than the majority of PT commutes in Auckland thanks to over-investment in roads and under-investment in decent PT infrastructure. Need more PT frequency and coverage across the region ASAP, sick of being a slave to my car.

    2. If only we would spend similar amounts of money on traffic! But unfortunately we’re spending ten times as much on traffic, for far less gain.

    3. Spending directly on road traffic gets more road traffic; spending away from road traffic relieves road traffic.

      As NZCID showed with their absurd $20billion+ road proposal, in a mature system there are no small investments with big returns. The biggest returns in Auckland Transport are now away from the most complete dominant system and in building the missing complementary alternatives-to-driving systems.

      That’s where we’re at after 60years of only building for traffic.

      1. Yes because in a mature urban system in a growing city all such gains are illusory. Yet it is exactly what drives [sorry] NZTA’s Economic Evaluation Manual. This is the mechanism at the heart of our transport investment systems that makes funding the CRL such a fight but pours billions automatically into any tarmac topped project regardless of its value.

    4. If you want reduce vehicle travel times you should be advocating for better transport alternatives to get cars off the road where the journey and purpose does not require a vehicle.

    5. The last time it was possible to spend money to reduce vehicle travel times by an appreciable amount was when we built the Harbour Bridge, and we’re out of harbours.

      Now the choices are to spend increasingly ludicrous sums of money on small temporary gains (while making the city impossible for anyone not in a car), or to invest in modes that can move more people for less money in less space.

    6. Fixed price contracts are a poor choice of commercial arrangement for a project of this size and complexity. Better to use an Alliance model like the Waterview Tunnel which encourages best for project outcomes with shared gain(and pain), rather than an adversarial model where everyone is acting only in their own best interests.

      1. Agreed – the alliances on SH20/SH16 seem to be working really well, from my experience as an outside stakeholder. They are much more responsive and cooperative than a fixed-priced contractor at St Lukes.

    7. So which project will you propose? It can’t cost more than 2 billion and it has to both add capacity and reduce travel time.

      As other pointed out, 2 billion is a small amount of money when it comes to highway building — some recent proposals almost make it look like chump change (and yes that is scary).

    8. Thanks for the comment Ricardo. You’ve elicited some brilliant responses that otherwise wouldn’t have been forthcoming.

      Good work. You’re a useful troll.

      Keep it up!

    9. Building motorways through urban areas and encouraging more cars into major cities goes completely against 50 years of transport planning experience from around the world. We know for a fact that urban highways destroy cities and create blight, ghettos and dead “rivers of concrete”, carving up the city, creating no-go areas and severing pedestrian access which creates healthy streetscapes.

      Auckland has also been brought to it’s knees by this thinking and the CRL I really hope signifies a step change in the way government approaches transport planning in NZ.

      What is needed now is a firm commitment to a North Shore line, extending the Onehunga branch to the airport, and getting spades in the ground to do it.This, and a long term rail development plan for the wider Auckland region could easily by funded by a CBD congestion charge for non electric vehicles. That would also achieve your wish of reducing congestion without tearing more 6 lane motorways into the already tattered urban fabric.

  2. TransportBlog you’ve been fantastic champions of this project and rightfully deserve some of the reflected glory of this great day. Well done for your clear voice, focus and tenacity. Love your work!!

    1. Thank you for your vision and dedication in creating transportblog and passing on the baton to the current team.

  3. Full credit to the Auckland Council. Will be an awkward day for Government though. All smiles and unity with the CRL celebration, then they will attack Council with their Government housing policy statement for not doing enough. I wonder if Nick Smith will acknowledge how important transport links are in his house price reckons?

  4. It’s a great day – a good to see Len still be mayor when the project starts officially. He deserves that much – and I agree, to the frustration of his opponents, he will go down in history as a mayor with a great legacy.

  5. Great day for Auckland and those that championed this project. When looking at the first photo and the motorway footprint compared to the CRL footprint one has to wonder what on earth our planners were thinking.
    Also so pleased that Len Brown did not stand down when faced with the torrent of abuse directed at him by Whale Oil and his cronies as their main focus was to destroy this project.
    Then we have the same idiots on Council who can see no further than the end of their nose still opposing the link while the developers who lobbied behind the scenes not only see the benefits but are taking advantage of it.
    Lastly, thank you Transportblog for supporting this and also giving us a forum to debate serious issues affecting transport.

  6. A historic day for Auckland. Well done to the people who’ve advocated for the project, those who advanced it through planning and investigation, and those who ultimately gave it the go-ahead. The city will be better for their work!

  7. I am sure that Transportblog can take a small piece of credit for championing this project and providing interesting and objective discussion. Everyone’s a winner, baby!

    1. Not small. Transportblog with Greater Auckland, Campaign for Better Transport and Generation Zero are the real heroes. It was good to hear Len acknowledge you – although indirectly.

  8. A great moment has arrived in Auckland. Good on Len Brown, who incidentally I saw at the chocolate shop at Sylvia Park last night, getting ready to celebrate perhaps.

  9. Auckland council gives us groundbreaking day. Such a refreshing change from the groundhog day of no meaningful change that we get from central government

  10. Congratulations Matt, Patrick and other bloggers for your tireless efforts advocating for this. Who will be the politician we are toasting in 10 years time for their success advocating for the rail only crossing of the harbour when the first sod is being turned on it in 2026!?

  11. I’m so glad Len got to break ground on this project. It will be a great legacy for him on what he has been able to achieve in his time as Mayor. Of course with a lot of help from many other people and organisations such as Transport Blog.

  12. CRL, finally…. Yeah! The North-Western development they say will add close to 2/3 of Hamilton’s population to United Auckland. Our policy makers need to think outside the box. To really reap the benefits of CRL and the North-Western development they should plan a railway line running parallel to SH16. The current Western line could split after Mt Albert into a North-Western line. This line could service Waterview, Pt Chev, Rosebank Peninsula, Te Atatu, Lincoln North, Royal Road, Massey, Westgate, Hobsonville, Kumeu and Huapai. Later on this line could even be extended along SH18 to service the North Shore. SH16 without a parallel Rapid Transit mode of public transport is a narrow vision. Rail transport is eco-friendly, efficient and will only add value to the economy.

    1. I hear that AT is about to kick off a study into the northwestern motorway corridor rapid transit. Stay tuned!

  13. OK. Now PLEEASE can we have a CRL for Wellington also.

    We too have an excellent existing rail system, but for it being hamstrung by stopping at a dead-end terminus, short of where much of the potential demand is, and leaving a large chunk of the city un-served.

    And we also have a current idiotic transport plan which seeks to spend $billions on MOAR ROADS which everyone knows will simply funnel MOAR TRAFFIC into our already congested CBD.

    Please CRL Fairy Godmother blow some of your magic dust down our way too.
    (And then you can carry on down to Christchurch while you’re at it. . .!)


      1. I like the concept of light rail in wellington, built in stages from the Railway Station to Courtenay Place, Newtownm Kilbirnie etc.

    1. I like the light rail concept for Wellington. Built in stages from the railway station south, courtenay place, newtown, kilbirnie, the airport etc.

      1. Indeed yes, but why stop at the station? Take a leaf out of Manchester’s book and convert an existing heavy rail line to light rail, continue straight out onto the street as a tram and run right through the CBD.

        Imagine being able to board a tram/train in the Hutt Valley and travelling all the way to the Airport via downtown without having to make a change.

        Fantasize, even, of a loop via the docks, carrying passengers directly to the ferry terminal.

        We can dream…..

        1. I think it’s the right idea but wrong line. If you convert the J’ville line, it keeps the heavy rail options for longer haul commuter services that exists and the freight corridor too. How about the trains instead of crossing the Hutt road into the end of the rail yard, drop on to the Hutt Road and then on into Thorndon and through the Cbd, to the hospital, Kilbirnie, under the runway and on into Miramar? Karori could be next and then down to Island bay, with peak core running every few minutes heading off to a couple of destinations either side of the core (think the current golden mile).

      2. Or do the job properly and “simply” extend the heavy rail system we already have. Conversion of existing lines to Tram/Train might be a much harder “sell” than pushing on further with the excellent system we already have. At peak times, 6 and 8 car Matangis are full. Trains arrive at 2-minute intervals during the “peak of the peak”. Patronage has been steadily climbing since the Matangis took over. Build an extension and expect to see it soar. This is not a job for light rail meandering down the “Golden Mile”. This would be a Railway of national Significance (RWoNS).

    1. Correct – and how may do we need
      a. For the CRL
      b. To meet current patronage
      c. For Pukekohe

      1. Yeah we already need a lot more as it is, so many 3-cars on peak runs on the Western, makes the 10 min frequency have a lot less impact.

  14. Let’s hope that the completion of the CRL comes early enough to persuade government that a rail only harbour crossing is the best outcome for the Shore and the city.
    Alternatively a Labour/ Green coalition with an informed transport minister could be truly transformational for Auckland

    1. I’d go for your second alternative taka-ite. The current National-retarded government has had more than enough time to wise up to the sort of transport policy that is really needed and they still haven’t “got it”. They were already past their use-by date when they first took office. .

  15. How about showing the K Road entrance at its true gradient? It ain’t flat around there. Also I object to some bloke from Christchurch (Brownlee) telling us in Auckland what infrastructure we should have. We all contributed to rebuilding Christchurch, Gerry.

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