Yesterday City Rail Link held their ‘Walk the Tunnels’ event for those lucky enough to get tickets. Thanks to some generous readers I managed to get some tickets and went along for a visit so thought I’d share some of my photos for those that didn’t manage to make it through.
There was definitely an event vibe to the whole thing with Britomart was sectioned off to separate those doing the walk from those using the station and even included bag checks.
After walking down the stairs to the platform level it was time to go behind the hoardings at the end of Platform 1 and into the new tunnels that have been built.
A ramp takes you down to the floor of the tunnel. This part of the tunnel also currently has parts for some of the new escalators stored in it as well as a temporary ventilation system which is in place while the tunnels are being built.
There is some falsework still in place as part of the tunnel construction. As I understand it, Thursday saw the final concrete pour for the tunnel roof so that’s a great milestone to reach.
Immediately after the falsework the tunnel starts to curve through the Commercial Bay site. It also noticeably starts to rise.
Just after the tunnel finishes its curve through Commercial Bay and starts its run up Albert St it was time to turn around via a safety cross-passage built into the tunnels. This left visitors gazing up the tunnel towards its current endpoint around Wyndham St. If the tunnels look wide it’s because they are, CRL say the internal dimensions vary but are typically 5.9m wide and 6.3m high but are wider around the bends so the trains can get through the curve.
It was then time to walk back down the other tunnel where CRL had placed a short exhibition of some of the history of transport in Auckland and of development of the rail network.
Unsurprisingly the return to Britomart was the carbon copy of the first side.
Along the walk were number of boxes recessed into the concrete that look like a space for subterranean art. These are spaces where fire suppression equipment will be installed in the future.
With the tunnels walked visitors where exited back out on to platform 5.
Thanks to all the staff who gave up their weekend to help pull off this public event. I think many of them will be rightfully proud of the work they’ve achieved so far and it’s great to be able to show that off to at least some of the public – and they say they want to hold more open days in the future.
CRL say the tunnels at the Britomart end will be fully completed early next year but work will continue on the station itself until early 2021.
As this phase starts to wind to a close, the next, bigger, stage is now starting to get underway. That has already started with demolition work around the Mt Eden station and future Karangahape Station, as well as services starting to be moved at Aotea. But next year that work will really start to be felt with a number of partial, full and permanent road closures. When they say partial closure they mean there will remain only one lane each way. The key impacts include:
- The Wellesley St/Albert St intersection will be fully closed to vehicle traffic from March 2020 to December 2020. Wellesley St is a major bus route and AT are looking at rerouting buses via Mayoral Drive during this time.
- Immediately after that the Victoria St/Albert St intersection will close until July 2022 – CRL consent conditions prevent both intersections being closed at the same time.
- From Queens Birthday weekend next year till the end of 2024 the Mt Eden Station will close. Western Line trains will still run through the station but won’t be stopping. As I understand it, during this time the western line will be down to a single track that will be shifted around the construction site every few months so they can lower the line by as much as 4m as part of grade separating Normanby Rd and to accommodate the CRL tunnels This also means the station platforms will need to be completely demolished. One thing I’m a bit worried about is that we’ll see an increase in signal and track related delays.
Either way 4½ years is an incredibly long time and means we’ll have two stations closed with Puhinui Station closed for two years while the new bus/train interchange is built. Based on the most recent HOP data we have, about 300,000 boardings at the station every year and about 355,000 alightings making it the 19th busiest station on the network and putting it right in the middle of the pack, of 40 stations. There will be some mitigation but it is hard to mitigate everything.
While the intersections being closed will certainly be disruptive, overall the construction of the Aotea Station should be less disruptive than what we’ve seen on Albert St to date. That’s because it will be built using a top-down method where after the piles have been drilled, they will basically bridge over the site and mine out underneath it as opposed to the open trench that Albert St was. This is also what happened on the Customs St intersection.
They said that during the peak of construction there will be about 200 truck movements a day across the three sites combined. The big physical works of the station boxes and tunnels will be completed at some point in 2022 but it will take till 2024 to fit out the stations and tunnels as well as conduct all the testing that will be needed.
Of course on top of this there are many other localised disruptions for construction works such as new buildings and other road/public space upgrades, like along the waterfront.
Finally, on Friday CRL also released this cute new video of the project.