City eyes rail link kick off 4 years early

Shopping centre on site reveals deal with council for 2016 start despite Govt target

Downtown Shopping Centre is due to be torn down. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Downtown Shopping Centre is due to be torn down. Photo / Kellie Blizard

Construction of a new shopping centre on a site to be demolished for the Central Rail Link is scheduled to begin four years before Government funding of the transport project.

Site owner Precinct Properties yesterday announced a deal with Auckland Council to co-ordinate the timing of work at Downtown Shopping Centre on Queen St with the building of a tunnel there for the City Rail Link.

"We welcome the chance to work ... with the council as obviously it would make a lot of sense to co-ordinate timing so they can advance works for the CRL tunnel at this site at the same time as we develop the downtown centre," Precinct chief executive Scott Pritchard said.

Precinct plans to build a new shopping centre with an extra level of outlets as well as a tower office block on the site, giving a preliminary start date of 2016. This is in line with the council's preferred schedule for the City Rail Link construction to begin.

Prime Minister John Key indicated a delayed start date of 2020 when he announced government financial backing of the $2.86 billion project.

But he has said the start could be brought forward if Auckland Transport could lift annual train patronage to 20 million passenger trips "well before 2020" and show a 25 per cent leap in CBD jobs. The target is almost double current train patronage.

Mayor Len Brown said it was possible construction could start early.

"The Prime Minister has left open the possibility of an earlier start for the CRL and we will continue to discuss timing with the Government. My view is an earlier start would be significantly more cost effective and allow Auckland to reap the economic benefits sooner, but those are discussions we are yet to have."

Mr Pritchard said the sooner work could start, "the better".

"We are supporters of the City Rail Link, and the ability for public transport to bring more people into the city would be good for our business," he said. "From a business perspective the sooner the better, and if this acts as a catalyst to bring forward the date that would be good."

The shopping centre sits on land required to build and operate the rail link. Two rail lines will emerge from Britomart travelling below QEII Square and Downtown, before curving under Albert St as they head south to connect with the line at Mt Eden.

Mr Brown said the agreement to try to co-ordinate construction was "another great step" in the progress of the CBD rail link. "Today we celebrate 10 years since the first train service at Britomart and here we are a decade later agreeing to negotiate a kick-start for the next exciting phase of our city's rail future," he said.

The link will be able to carry 30,000 people an hour at peak times, with trains running every 5 to 10 minutes.


Train timetable

2020
Govt date to fund half the cost of $2.86 billion City Rail Link, unless Auckland Transport can lift train patronage and CBD jobs.

2016
Auckland Council's preferred start-date and scheduled start for construction of new shopping centre above the link.


- Additional reporting, staff reporter

- APNZ

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