The Albert Park tunnels have been in the media again. What’s particularly exciting is hearing that information from engineers has advised that the project could be constructed in just 6 months if approved, with Bill Reid wanting them open for Christmas.

For those unfamiliar with the Albert Tunnels here was a post written by Matt last year giving a run down. The presentation can also be found here. Personally, I think this project is pure genius and am hoping it will happen soon.

So why do I love the Albert Park tunnels:

It’s Unique 

As a young city, we have an extreme disadvantage in that we don’t have many landmark selling points. This is the type of project that makes Auckland stand out from the crowd. It also gives tourists something to really do in the City if they can’t stray too far from the cruise ship, tour etc.

It will be perfect for America’s Cup when plenty of tourists in City finding things to do between races.

As an aside, this is also another reason I support a rail/walking/cycling bridge to the North Shore, not only is it nearly a billion cheaper than a tunnel (as well as more easily future proofed), but also another chance to create a wonderful landmark to set Auckland apart.

It’s a really useful Transport Link

The tunnels fill a real transport need in addition to the cultural, tourism and entertainment benefits. The tunnels act as an extension of the future Victoria St Linear Park which will be a major east/west walking/cycling route connecting:

  1. Connecting Grafton Gully and Nelson cycleways.
  2. It will remove the hill making both the CRL and Light Rail university stations;
  3. Makes it easier to connect to Symonds buses;
  4. Supports the Green Link move of the City Centre Masterplan;
Albert Park Tunnels Cross Section

Fantastic Places Inside

Including possibly:

  1. Art;
  2. Wine and Cheese Cave;
  3. Glowworm encounter organised by the same people at Waitomo;
  4. Mini Museum;
  5. Retail;
  6. Other hospitality;
Waitomo Caves – Imagine if right in heart of city

Doesn’t Need Ratepayer Funding

The really great part about this project is that they don’t need any funding from ratepayers/taxpayers all they need is the go-ahead and in fact, because they expect to pay a lease this would be revenue for the Council.

All in all I can’t wait for the tunnels and seriously great work from both Bill Reid who has been advocating for the tunnels for years as well as Nicolas Reid (No relation), who also co-wrote Regional Rapid Rail with me for turning the concept into a real game changer for the city, not just for tourism, but culture and transport as well.

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50 comments

  1. Nothing embodies the phrase quick win like the tunnels do for the council. Easy, quick and free it would straight away show the vision this council and government are pushing for. Creating a solid base from which to expand on to bigger projects like, better cycle ways, lightrail and light rail harbour crossings.

  2. Who takes liability for accidents or rock falls?
    Is there a mine rescue service in Auckland to pull people out?

    All looks trippy until someone dies …. then all the supporters swear it had nothing to do with them.

      1. There won’t be any rock falls because the tunnels will be lined with steel reinforced concrete. If we are concerned about that collapsing, then you need to be concerned about every building in town made from the same stuff.

        1. Clearly you missed the alteration to legislation in 2016 after a fair number of people died in a mine.
          Show me precisely why this tunnel is safe. Prove it.

          Because trust me if you can’t, there’s no reason to take any tunnel.

          NZTA’s Waterview Alliance did the right thing testing the bejeezus out of their safety systems before they let anyone in to Waterview.

          That’s the level of public safety and accountability that is completely absent here.

          Harriet Gale is awesome but this is a crap idea with no serious examination put in.

          1. I haven’t missed that at all, and yes like any new building, construction or facility, proving that it meets all the safety requirements and codes is a requirement to getting a CCC and being able to open to the public.

            What makes you think that public safety and accountability isn’t being considered? Why would you think we would somehow try and build a facility without meeting regulations? Why would you think we would try and open a tunnel without testing the safety systems?

            I mean that’s all completely insane, you must just be grumpy trolling.

          2. I don’t see any similarity. A bunch of people died because they were sent down a gaseous mine by a company too cheap to make it safe. By comparison this project involves putting in support to some existing holes that are currently held up by rotting timbers and were poorly backfilled. Think of this as making an existing situation better.

          3. @Ad no you prove it – since you’re the one making the assertion that council would knowingly sign off public access to a potentially unsafe facility against all precedent. Have you never heard of Skyjump, that weird bungie thing on Elliott St, McDonalds playgrounds, etc?

    1. If the tunnels were that unsafe Albert Park , Constitution Hill and half the University would have by now collapsed inwards into the tunnels creating a giant valley across the hill so after 70 plus years it should be reasonably safe .

    2. Ad, I don’t know why you are so concerned about safety in these tunnels. Pedestrian tunnels operate all over the world with very little issue. They tend to be much safer for pedestrians than equivalent overground routes which may include interaction with motor-traffic and dangerous road-crossings – by far the greatest general hazard facing by pedestrians and one for which nobody is held properly accountable.

      There is a perception that foot-tunnels may be dangerous places due to criminal activity but effective CCTV monitoring usually guards against this.

      Check out the Greenwich Tunnel (under the River Thames). A hugely useful asset for pedestrians!
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwich_foot_tunnel

  3. Safety will stop this really though for a long time.. law will prevent solutions in proven so safety will be the hardest part.

  4. Agree..was also gonna suggest, the best way to do this would be for the council to do this. Concern for liabilities and safety are relevant. Would still like to see this go ahead though.

  5. If the Waterview tunnel is considered safe, Albert Park should be easy. It is impossible to argue against this, especially as Victoria Linear Park takes shape. I live on the route so I am a little biased but still, this will be an amazing addition to Tāmaki Makaurau, for locals and visitors alike. An alternative path to the Arena (whoever may have naming rights at the time), an up the tower, through the tunnel, down in Kelly Tarlton’s tourism activity could operate. The potential is unimaginable. Just the benefits of having a flatter surface are enough to justify it, the rest is just bonus. If the council can manage this, which is easy compared to other projects, perhaps they will regain some trust among the cynics. Build it and they will come, to misquote someone.

    1. So, if NZTA has liability for the safety and operation of the Waterview tunnel, who has liability for the safety of those travelling in the Albert Park tunnels?

        1. Why should NZTA’s liability apply only to tunnels. When will someone take them to task over the their roads which function as much as workplaces as any bar but which kill and maim in the hundreds and thousands annually .

  6. “As a young city, we have an extreme disadvantage in that we don’t have many landmark selling points” – Not the cones or Rangitoto or Sky tower etc etc ? What do you mean by this sentence?

    1. If you travel to any old city, say in Europe, you will see countless architectural masterpieces, or landmark selling points. Auckland, due to its age, and one could argue anglo-influenced construction, lacks these. Yes we have a few, but creating a new, unique (ex bomb shelter) place will only be good.

    2. Probably this refers to the architecture.

      If you’re in an old city, the ages of the most fancy buildings will often tell you when that city used to be prosperous. For instance, Bruges has a more or less intact medieval city centre. That city used to be a major seaport, but after the inlet to the city (the Golden Inlet and later the Zwin) silted up the city declined. So we’re left with a relatively intact medieval city centre.

      So what the lack of ‘landmark’ buildings tells us is that there was never a period when Auckland was one of the richest cities in the world. (from what I read Auckland also suffered somewhat from ‘Brusselisation’)

  7. Presumably the Council are the owner of the tunnels?
    So what has been their response?

    The original submission was made over 6 months ago, surely there must have been some indication what their thoughts are?

    If Sydney can build a new tunnel to connect pedestrians to Barangaroo to Wynyard, there is surely no reason that an existing one cannot be repurposed,

    1. Yes council, or specifically the waitemata local board, are the owners. They are very supportive and are helping to progress the proposal, but obviously they want to see it all planned and done properly and can’t sign away the rights to the tunnels on a whim, so plenty of work to be done yet.

  8. This is not a new idea – has been raised several times over the last 20 odd years (I am sure that I remember it being discussed in the 90s). Some of the suggested uses for the old tunnel network (e.g. black water rafting) are a bit off the wall but the concept of a transport link under the Symonds Street / Princes Street ridge has a lot to commend it. However I think the idea that even the first stage can be achieved within one year is most unlikely.

    1. If it is such an obvious idea, and yet it hasn’t happened in 20 year of trying and I guess nearly a century of their existence, why is this really such an obvious idea at all?

      1. All previous attempts at this have had two things in common: 1) They were generally about heritage restoration without any particular active uses or revenue streams, and 2) they all proposed the council pay for it.

        The current proposal is for private funding paid back with revenue generating uses, and only a small amount of ‘civic good’ heritage restoration.

    2. Graeme, the suggestion of having the first stage done in a year was a misrepresentation in the media. The comment was actually that the construction period would take less than a year… which is quite different from having the whole project complete in the same timeframe.

  9. The west entry should be moved to the corner of High and Victoria St (the council car park). This would then make it only 5 m above Queen St level, and miss out the last 10 m+ altitude gain required on the step section from High St to Albert Park. This is not a nice grade to walk, and is also very busy, noisy, windy, and another slow lights controlled intersection to cross . A re-aligned tunnel from this corner, through the basement of the car-park would make it possible to have a near flat grade to the Princess Street elevator, making it much more accessible and enjoyable to walk

    1. Peter, we have a plan very similar to that in planning. It involves some extra work and impacts so we’ve not talked about it publicly until we’ve sorted it out with the groups involved, but stay tuned.

    2. …and to complete the Victoria St Linear Park flat route option we just need a concourse through Aotea station to a western entrance…at Victoria Park. Just a tiddly little 350m long tunnel needed under buildings with probably not very significant foundations such as the Sky Tower, can you just pop that into the plan please

  10. Awesome idea! And relatively cheap if costs come in as estimated. It will be interesting to see how it is balanced between commuter cycle path (ie high speeds) and pedestrian path & tourist attractions.
    Look forward to seeing this progress!

  11. This is great, but when has anything been done in nz in a six month timeframe? Basic roadworks sometimes take longer. Painted bus or cycle lanes take years.

    That’s the reality of paralysis NZ.

    1. With roadworks or cycle lanes and the like, the works themselves are often the easiest part, it’s staging the works in and around live traffic and town centres that takes time, especially if they have to move services under the roadway. A couple of hours digging a hole to access one pipe can take days of disruption management to achieve.

      Conversely the construction plan for the tunnels requires almost negligible traffic management or disruption to business, pedestrians etc, as it will all be staged from the eastern end using Churchill Street and a temporary site in the lower corner of Churchill reserve. It’s literally a case of starting at that end and working along clearing out the fill and shotcreteing the interior as they go. Opening the entrance to Victoria Street will be literally the last and final step, and even that can be mostly staged from the inside.

      It’s actually quite simple in that regard. The beauty with this is the tunnel ‘holes’ are already dug, and there are no services, pipes or cables to deal with, except the new ones that get installed in the tunnels once they are reconstructed.

      1. This is a great project, one that I’ve been watching for a few years and it’s great to see Bill’s hard work finally making some decent progress.

        Just a question on your comment though – are they just planning to shotcrete the existing tunnel once the tiles are removed? Surely some newer beams or structural reinforcement would be required too?

        Again, great project. Hope it gets the green light.

  12. If this goes ahead then surely the old Parnell rail tunnel has to follow. Imagine the cycle from Newmarket to Victoria Park: Newmarket Park –> Parnell rail tunnel –> Domain greenway –> Albert Park tunnel –> Linear Park –> Victoria Park.

    Also, the Albert Park tunnel plan shows how daft the location of Parnell station is. It could have been a 5 minute walk to the centre of campus.

    1. That network would be amazing, but the Albert Park tunnels will be very, very cool in their own right. Charge on Nick, local board and then private backers.

      If there is a public consultation, I look forward to putting my support on the record 🙂

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