Inner-city rail link delay 'untenable'

By Matthew Backhouse, APNZ


Auckland Council's chief planner says he wants the inner-city rail link completed by 2021, despite the Government saying there is a stronger case for building it almost a decade later.


Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee told a transport summit in Wellington yesterday that the case for the $2.86 billion rail link would be stronger in 2030 than the council's target.


Speaking at the summit today, Auckland Council chief planning officer Roger Blakeley responded that such a delay would be "untenable".


He said further delays to the rail link would limit employment, growth and economic benefits.


"I'm aware that the Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee said yesterday that, in his view, the case for the city rail link is stronger at 2030 rather than 2020.


"The council and Auckland Transport's view is that it should be implemented by 2021 ... We think that it's untenable to have New Zealand's only international-sized city with traffic at speeds at peak in the morning reduced to around 7km/h."


Dr Blakeley quoted figures from the City Centre Future Access Study, which found that most bus routes into the city centre would be at capacity or overloaded by 2021, and the speed of cars during morning peak traffic wold be halved.


The study has been submitted to Government which is due to respond next month.


Dr Blakeley said council was looking forward to the response.


"We are hopeful that we can then go into discussion around developing a business case [for the rail link] and discussing funding issues."


The proposed rail link centres around a rail tunnel with three new underground stations in the central city.


It would involve converting the downtown Britomart station from a terminus to a through station, and connecting the new link directly to the western rail line - removing the need for trains on the western line to pass through Newmarket.


Mr Brownlee yesterday said the timing and scope of large projects in Auckland needed careful analysis and planning.


The Government invests about $1b a year in Auckland's transport including $550 million in roading improvements, $190m in road maintenance, $160m in public transport and $100m in rail infrastructure.

- THE AUCKLANDER

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