Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Labour hitches ride on Mayor's rail link start date

An artist impression of the underground rail station to be built on Albert St and Aotea Square under Sky City for the proposed Auckland City Rail link. Photo / supplied
An artist impression of the underground rail station to be built on Albert St and Aotea Square under Sky City for the proposed Auckland City Rail link. Photo / supplied

The Labour Party is promising to join forces with Auckland Mayor Len Brown and make an immediate start on the $2.86 billion rail link if it wins this year's general election.

"Our policy is to build the city rail link as an immediate priority on the basis of a 50:50 split between the ratepayer and taxpayer," Labour's Auckland Issues spokesman Phil Twyford said today.

Mr Twyford and Labour Transport spokeswoman Darien Fenton outlined the policy outside Britomart train station in Auckland this morning. They were joined by Auckland list MP Jacinda Ardern and party activists handing out flyers to rail commuters, headed 'Build the City Rail Link Now'.

Mr Twyford said Labour would jump at Mr Brown's announcement last week to kickstart the project in 2016, saying Labour would pay its half share out of the national land transport fund.

Mr Brown has told Prime Minister John Key his council would pay for an early "works programme" to get the project started at Britomart and under much of Albert St.

The offer included $250 million of the city's money and a Government commitment to pay for half of the project from 2020.

Mr Twyford said Labour would pay the Government's share up front, indicating the money would come from reviewing the Government's roads of national significance, including the so-called "holiday highway" from Puhoi to Wellsford.

He said Labour would spend up to $400 million on improvements to the existing stretch of State Highway One between Puhoi and Wellsford, including a bypass of Warkworth and straightening out and improvements to tackle the accident black spots.

"We do intend to make the rail link an election issue," said Mr Twyford, who said Mr Key's "flip-flop" last year in coming round to the project indicated he was feeling the heat politically.

Mr Twyford said Mr Key would be a vague memory by the time National delivered on its timeframe to start building the rail link in 2020.

Last week, Mr Key poured cold water on Mr Brown's offer of an early start, saying officials would look at it "but at this point really, nothing has changed".

- NZ Herald

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