Four businesses caught in the massive disruption of building central Auckland's new underground railway have asked for compensation.

The owners of Kaffeine say the works have had such a devastating effect on their cafe that they will close it permanently on Thursday.

Preliminary works for the City Rail Link, the twin 3.4km tunnels linking Britomart to the western railway line near Mt Eden began last year but the main works started in June this year.

The current estimate is that the project will cost up to $3.4 billion and it is expected to take until 2023 to complete.

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Rail tunnel construction works at the intersection of Albert and Wyndham Sts, central Auckland. Photo / Martin Johnston
Rail tunnel construction works at the intersection of Albert and Wyndham Sts, central Auckland. Photo / Martin Johnston
The rail tunnel construction works fence outside Kaffeine cafe in Albert St, central Auckland. Photo / Martin Johnston
The rail tunnel construction works fence outside Kaffeine cafe in Albert St, central Auckland. Photo / Martin Johnston

Kaffeine is nestled near the wire fences separating pedestrians from enormous, noisy machinery towering over Albert St just metres from the cafe's door.

"The foot traffic has dropped. It's massive. The capital and our savings are gone. We invested everything," said Gabor Florovits, who with his partner Kyra Cheng, has owned and run Kaffeine for more than two years.

They say business remained good even after the Herald, a large employer, moved out of the area a year ago. Florovits traces their downfall from June, when the major construction works arrived outside his door.

Now the number of customers is half what it was at this time last year. They had been offered a discount on the rent but it was insufficient and too late.

Florovits and Cheng, New Zealand residents originally from Hungary and Taiwan, will look for work or see if they can find a suitable site for another cafe.

They have sought compensation from Auckland Transport, but not a specific sum although Florovits indicated that around $80,000 would be "reasonable for a start". That was about how much the value of the business had declined since last year.

"I've been dealing with Auckland Transport for two to three months. We have been unable to get any proper feedback. They were supposed to get back to us within 20 working days. They didn't.

"We're not bitter or angry. We would like to play with fair rules."

Cheng added: "Is this how the [local] government treats people? I thought Kiwis are fair."

Auckland Transport, however, said it was processing Kaffeine's claim.

"He has had feedback; I have met with him personally," said Carol Greensmith, a communications manager for the agency.

Several other businesses in the area also said their number of customers was down sharply since the construction works moved in, although one with no fenced-off areas outside, Diamonds on Albert, reported no reduction in patronage.

"Workmen are coming in to buy presents for their partners," said the jewellery shop's owner, Julie-Anne Pearce.

Greensmith said Auckland Transport had received five claims for compensation, including one not from a business. It hasn't paid out on any yet.

She wouldn't say what budget the agency had set for compensation, but she did say that it would meet its obligations under the consent conditions for the project.

These require that harmful disruption to businesses or residents is avoided, remedied or mitigated. The consent also refers to the Public Works Act for criteria on demonstrating losses. The act says that if a land owner would have a right of action under common law, the local authority must compensate the person to the extent warranted by the adverse effects.