So yesterday was the symbolic ground-breaking, or perhaps more accurately the ground-exploding for the City Rail Link. If you weren’t there and didn’t watch the live stream the video is below and the actual ceremony starts from about 48 minutes. I thought I would give some of my views of it.
Over the years now I’ve been to a number of ground-breaking ceremonies and this was by far the most interesting. Auckland Transport and the Council certainly put a bit of effort in here but I guess when you’re celebrating the start of largest single transport project that is kind of justified.
AT held the event right out in front of Britomart which was a good choice. While they had a marquee (and some tasty CRL cupcakes) for those who had been invited, it also allowed members of the public to join in too and there appeared to be quite a few people doing so. The people in shot below were outside of that invited area. For those outside of Auckland, as you can see the weather also turned it on which was a nice change after the last 3 weeks or so.
— Auckland Council (@AklCouncil) June 1, 2016
Some of the CRL cupcakes
Right off the bat one aspect that was quite different and I thought a nice touch, was to have quite a strong focus on youth. This was optimised by having a 17-year-old from Waitakere College as the emcee for the event. She brought a lot of energy to her role which was refreshing to see.
John Key was the first speaker and I thought his comments were very good, in particular this part.
Second thing I think is that ultimately what we’re seeing in cities around the world that are doing well and progressing is that they’re places where people want to work, obviously, but they’re also places where people want to live and people want to be entertained. And what we’re seeing as Auckland grows up and indeed grows out, is a lot more apartments being built and I think over time you’re going to see more and more people live in the CBD, they’re not going to own cars, they’re going to get on the City Rail Link, they’re going to get on the train for transportation, they’ll get on the bus, and frankly they’ll probably take a taxi or Uber. And they’ll have their living, working and entertainment happen here in the CBD and that’s really what this is about, it’s an investment in the future, it’s an investment in Auckland, it will make a great difference in transforming the city, it’s a very futuristic project.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard Key speak positively about transport or urban issues and I guess some of that comes from his time spent overseas in the likes of New York so it’s all the more surprising that these attitudes haven’t flowed through to some of his ministers or transport priorities.
Key was followed by Simon Bridges who also talked very positively about the project and the impact it will have even referencing the council’s “World’s Most Liveable City” goal. Both Bridges and Key also paid respect to Len Brown for his ongoing advocacy for the project which has been instrumental in getting it to this point.
Next up it was Lester Levy who talked about what it takes to make a project like this happen including highlighting that they’ve got experts from around the world working on the CRL
Then it was time the speech that most were keen to see, Lens speech. As expected Len was ebullient and so he should be given the history of the project and the attitude of the government up until recently. Len covered off a lot of topics in his speech but one I thought was quite important was that today probably would never have been possible without the government having amalgamated the councils of Auckland in 2010. On a personal level it was nice that he acknowledged the role of transport advocates in helping to get to this stage. As John Key said, Len should rightly be proud at what he’s achieved with the CRL.
One interesting fact that came out in Len’s press release after was this showing just how much patronage to the city is expected to increase in just the first year.
“Auckland Transport is forecasting in the first year of operation an 88% increase in rail passengers travelling to the city centre and a 40% increase in rail patronage across the network in the morning peak.
Following the speeches there was a flash mob before the grand finale of Bridges, Brown and Key pushing an oversized detonator to set off some pyrotechnics and balloons to start the project – although as Bill Bennett pointed out, that detonator is reminiscent of something else.
You can't un-see this: pic.twitter.com/6PDrOiKRD2
— Bill Bennett (@billbennettnz) June 1, 2016
A flash mob and fireworks to launch the city rail link. pic.twitter.com/tAFJl3FGBX
— Will Hine (@MisterHine) June 1, 2016
Although as Luke discovered later, that sod has been unturned and filled back in again
CRL sod has been un-turned, and resealed pic.twitter.com/46Sy5qmdon
— Luke Christensen (@lukechristensen) June 2, 2016
Did AT go over the top with the dancing and pyrotechnics? It was certainly a unique ceremony for a unique project.
With the ceremony out of the way we can now look forward to the project really getting under way, despite the disruption that will bring.
Did you attend the ceremony or did you/have watched the live stream? What did you think of it?