Auckland Transport has quietly dropped a controversial feature of its $2.86 billion underground rail project - a surface station which would have meant demolishing a new $10.5 million apartment block.
The council organisation confirmed last night that it was no longer seeking a route designation over land west of Ian McKinnon Drive in Eden Terrace, where it had wanted to build an "interchange" station to split rail movements between a pair of tunnels extending to Britomart and the existing surface tracks to Newmarket.
That would have affected about 20 extra properties including a block of 24 new apartments called Tawari Mews, into which shocked residents were still moving when the station plan was announced in July.
The revised plan will still affect about 260 properties, including the Downtown shopping mall, which will both have to be demolished.
A block of character buildings in Victoria St is also under threat, to make way for one of three proposed underground stations still in the plan, and Albert St will be dug up during construction of a pair of "cut and cover" tunnels, which will be too shallow for a boring machine.
But project spokeswoman Carol Greensmith said engineers had looked carefully at the need for an extra surface station between New North Rd and Dominion Rd and concluded the rail network would be better off without it.
"They have looked at minimising land footprints and optimising the efficiency of the network and after a lot of work have decided that having one less stop will improve overall the performance of the whole network," she said.
The disclosure follows Auckland Council's public notification of applications from the transport organisation for six designations covering both surface and subterranean land titles.
Ms Greensmith said it was at her organisation's instigation that the council had decided to extend the usual period for submissions, from 20 to 35 working days, meaning the public would have until March 19 to comment on the applications.
Five independent commissioners have already been appointed for public hearings likely to start in about the middle of the year.
Tawari Mews resident Brent Foster, who moved into his apartment in April with his partner Caroline Lim after rent rises prompted a long search for a home of their own, said the block was now full of "very happy people" relieved they would not have to devote this year to fighting the interchange station proposal.
Although the Government has yet to be persuaded to offer financial support to what Auckland Mayor Len Brown has made his top transport priority, project director Claire Stewart notes a warning last month from transport consultants that without the new rail link, city traffic would slow to walking speed within a decade.
She said the underground link and its three stations would double the number of people able to reach the central city on trains within 30 minutes.
The scheme would also unlock the potential of the region's entire rail network by removing the existing dead-end at Britomart.