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CRL TBM Arrives

The Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) that will dig the City Rail Link tunnels arrived in Auckland this week.

City Rail Link’s latest “employee” – the tunnel boring machine (TBM) known as Dame Whina Cooper – has arrived in Auckland after a voyage of more than nine thousand kilometres from its factory in southern China.

The machine to excavate the rail tunnels for New Zealand’s largest ever transport infrastructure project arrived in sections on board the BBC Orion and will now be trucked to the City Rail Link site in Mt Eden for reassembly.


“A lot of our work until now has focussed on getting ready for the heavy work ahead. The building blocks are in place and the arrival of Dame Whina Cooper marks a symbolic crossover from those enabling works to the complex and hefty job of finishing our tunnels and stations – construction is ramping up quickly,” Dr Sweeney says.

Dame Whina Cooper also arrives with a Christmas dividend for Aucklanders. The project is planning an open day in December to allow people a close-up look of the machine that will help transform the way they can travel around the city.

“It’s a chance for us to say, ‘thank you’, for the fantastic support we get from the community, and to explain the work of the project’s very clever mechanical star and the big changes it is going to bring to Auckland,” Dr Sweeney says.

Further details of the open day will be announced next month.

Over the next few days a small convoy of trucks will transport the TBM from the port to Mt Eden, where it will be reassembled and retested before it starts tunnelling next year.

While it won’t be till April that the TBM starts tunnelling, the first 51m of the tunnel was started this week from which it will be launched from.

It’s also great to hear there’ll be another open day. It was fascinating to see the progress that had been made and to be able to walk the tunnels.

PT mode numbers

We’re now just over two weeks since we went back to Level 1 so it’s interesting to see how we’re tracking with public transport use. The data is up till Sunday so we’ve only had one full week so far and the average number of weekday boardings is sitting at just 240,000, about 66% of normal compared to the same week last year. It’s also about the same as it was following the first lockdown suggesting we should see continued growth over the coming weeks – this week has certainly felt busier than last week.

One big difference compared to following the first lockdown is we’ve had two major transport crises. During Lockdown 2 we learnt the rail network was in much worse condition than was known and Kiwirail has been slowed to just 40km/h along with Kiwirail shutting the network in places for up to four weeks at a time to repair it. In September we also saw the Harbour Bridge significantly damaged severely reducing capacity. These two crises can easily be see if we split out the details by mode. In this case it is showing just the percentage difference to last year not the total number of boardings but as you can see, all modes recovered at about the same rate following Lockdown 1 but have recovered quite differently since Lockdown 2.

Constellation Bus Station Bridge

As part of the Northern Corridor project and Northern Busway extension, the Constellation Station is being upgraded by adding a new northbound platform – which will also help in addressing the current bus congestion issues. This weekend that work will get much more visible with the new pedestrian bridge that will span the busway being installed.

A new pedestrian bridge will be lifted into place at the Constellation Bus Station on Auckland’s North Shore over Labour Weekend.

The station is the busiest hub of all the stations along the Northern Busway, which is being extended from Constellation Drive to Albany as part of the Northern Corridor Improvements project.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Senior Manager Project Delivery Andrew Thackwray says people should leave extra time if they are catching the bus during the holiday weekend.

“There will be some different platform areas at the station to catch the bus. Bus timetables and routes will stay the same and we’re aiming to minimise disruption as much as we can.”

The platform changes will be in place from 6.00pm Sunday 25 October until 1.00pm Monday 26 October.

Northern Express buses will continue their normal service on the busway. Bus ambassadors will be at the station to show people to the temporary platforms.

The new pedestrian bridge will be lifted into place over the busway by a large crane, to connect to the lift towers. The 28 metre long transparent glass bridge will provide a safe connection between the new northbound platform and the station hub. This is similar to the layout at Smales Farm Station.

Work on the $15M project has been underway this year to build a new northbound platform to cater for more people using the busway during peak times. New toilets, lifts, driver facilities and a kiosk area will also be added to the fit out.

Am artist impression of the upgraded station. It will look very similar to the Smales Farm station

Where’s the NW Cycleway Upgrade?

Radio New Zealand yesterday highlighted how no progress has been made on the project to upgrade the NW Cycleway through Kingsland and separate out walkers from cyclists.

As a reminder this is what is meant to be being built but thanks to the COVID emergency budget has been put on hold indefinitely.

Motorway Tenders

While we have no idea when that NW Cycleway will happen, big motorway projects are charging ahead. This week the Waka Kotahi NZTA announced they’re going out to tender on the $423 million widening of SH1 between Papakura and Drury and the $478 million Takitimu North Link (previously the Tauranga Northern Link).

Two major New Zealand Upgrade Programme projects are beginning tenders for construction.

The first Auckland upgrade programme project expected to start construction, making improvements to the Southern Motorway between Papakura and Drury South, has released a Request For Tender for its first stage to shortlisted candidates.

The Takitimu North Link project, one of the Bay of Plenty’s most significant projects, has also released its Request For Tender. The tender is for Stage One between Tauranga and SH2 Te Puna. The Takitimu North Link will provide a new 14 kilometre road link with a separated walking and cycling path between Tauranga and Ōmokoroa.

Eastern Busway Alliance

Auckland Transport have signed an to complete the Pakuranga to Botany sections of the Eastern Busway.

Four world-class organisations have been selected to form an Auckland Transport-led alliance to design, consent and build the completion stages of the Eastern Busway project.

The project connects Pakuranga and Botany town centres and Mayor Phil Goff is pleased to see the project progressing at pace.

“Signing up Fletcher, Acciona, AECOM and Jacobs to form an alliance is a significant milestone for Auckland. This is a game-changing project for Auckland. The formation of an alliance is a major step towards delivering rapid transit and improved travel options for people in our eastern and southern suburbs,” says Mayor Goff.

“Following the enormous success of the Northern Busway, the Eastern Busway is expected to carry more than 30,000 people per day between the rapidly growing south-eastern suburbs and the rail network in Panmure. This project will make journeys faster and more convenient, reducing travel time between Botany and Britomart. It will also help reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions.”

The alliance delivery model, which is a first for Auckland Transport, requires the partners to work closely together and draw on local and international expertise.

“The organisations have entered into an interim project alliance agreement phase to start critical design and consenting work, before progressing towards construction expected to start in 2022,” says Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison.

“The alliance partners have a proven track record in delivering major local and international infrastructure projects using this model, including Auckland’s Waterview Connection, the SH16 Causeway Upgrade and Brisbane’s Eastern Busway.”

The remaining stages of the Eastern Busway will extend the rapid transit, high frequency busway currently under construction between Panmure and Pakuranga, through to a new station in Botany Town Centre.

The project will include new walking and cycling connections, placemaking, urban renewal initiatives and improvements for general traffic. The project is due to be complete in 2025 – subject to consent approvals.

“Customers will be able travel between Botany and Britomart by bus and train in less than 40 minutes, which is 20 minutes quicker than the current journey times,” says Mr Ellison.

At 30,000 people a day that would put the Eastern Busway at about the level of usage of the Northern Busway before COVID and would also make it busier than our of our rail lines – although usage on all of them will have grown by the time this is completed.

And a couple of quick ones.

Have a good long weekend and if you’re on the roads, drive safe.

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  1. Working from home must be having some effect on public transport numbers and transport in general.

    I used to go to the office 4 days/week, now I go 1. When I went in on Tuesday there were 2 people from one of the teams where normally there would be 16-20.

    We can see Esmonde rd from home and on Monday there was the normal queue of traffic backed up past harbourside church, Wed/Thurs and at 7.30 this morning, which would normally be peak queue time there is no queue at all.

    1. Yes it is. Best of all this offers a great opportunity to peak smooth services; to shift resources from the peaks to deliver a best practice better all day improved higher frequency regular service pattern.

      The most expensive services to add are peak one, when all your vehicles and staff are already committed, esp as the added services are typically only serving one direction. Likely can shift to this better pattern by shifting cost from those extra peak services.

      Way better to a have regular more frequent all day pattern, esp now as it looks likely more flexible workplace attendance expectations are here to stay. Can always add price differentials to further encourage peak spreading too, as AT did temporarily in the lockdowns.

  2. Anyone else watch the Ameti video and think, great – how’s AT going with rolling out safe streets to feed into that bike lane? Got a plan? And is there plenty of bus priority for all the feeder buses, as well as safe pedestrian crossings at all the bus stops along the way? Because people will want to use it… but it’d be stupid to just plan for them to drive to it when good design for proper access would meet so many goals of the GPS.

  3. “While we have no idea when that NW Cycleway will happen, big motorway projects are charging ahead.”

    Ignoring the GPS like this should have consequences. But it’s hard, I guess, when Labour sends signals to ignore their own GPS, like NZUP.

  4. Last week the park and ride at Papatoetoe was just over half full this week full up. Refugees from further out trying to avoid rail buses.

        1. If you view this you can see there is a 3rd line under the new station building but no sign of a 3rd platform . ;-

  5. Well done RNZ for bringing up the NW Cycleway delay. It’d be nice if they’d moved beyond road user behaviour, bicycle bells etc into highways engineering. Shared-use paths don’t work with lots of people because of the differing momentum characteristics of walking and cycling/rolling/skating.

    John Parkin explains it well:


  6. I find it interesting that the Eastern busway will be basically a proper one in 2025, whilst for NW AT plans to upgrade the bus shoulders, and even that is going to take 5 years. At that stage the plan for the journey from Westgate to the city to take about 50-60 minutes, comparing with about 35 from Albany (roughly the same distance).

  7. I was thinking mainly about the efort/scope required in both cases and the amount of time AT is planning to use to extend the bus shoulders vs building a proper busway.

    1. I certainly don’t want to defend AT/NZTA’s schedule for implementation, but that isn’t an apples to apples comparison as I understand that the NOR is in place for AMETI and the design is finalised. NW only went out for consultation a few weeks ago. Even so, 2 years would be a generous timeframe for what the agencies want to do on the NW motorway.

  8. This is what AMETI looked liked on Mon 12th October and it looks like they are still pushing the bridge across the river ;-

  9. Just think how much extra funding we would have for the NW cycleway upgrade or other cycle links if they hadn’t decided to build the Reeves Rd flyover as part of the Eastern Busway project. The whole project has been so long in coming that it has been designed almost from an old era of thinking. It would be interesting how different the design would be if they started on it from scratch now with safety & climate change agendas/plans etc that have subsequently kicked in.

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