Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Govt hints at early start to City Rail Link

Downtown part of route could gel with Precinct development in 2016 but mayor lacks funding

An artist impression of the upgrade to Mt Eden rail station to be built as part of the City Rail Link.
An artist impression of the upgrade to Mt Eden rail station to be built as part of the City Rail Link.

The Government is looking at an early start on the $2.4 billion City Rail Link - but only for a short section of the route to go with the redevelopment of the Downtown Shopping Centre. The underground rail link starts at Britomart and goes under Lower Queen St and the shopping centre before turning up Albert St bound for Mt Eden.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee told the Herald he had met Precinct Properties about plans for a $400 million to $500 million redevelopment of the downtown site.

Once those plans were firmed up, he said, the Government would want to see how the rail link and redevelopment might gel to ensure everyone got the best results out of the time the site was under construction.

But Mr Brownlee stressed there was no commitment from Precinct at this point and no commitment from the Government, which wanted construction on the full link to start in 2020. The section of the route under the downtown site "would be lucky to be 100m", he said.

This is the first public indication from the Government of an early start on the rail link, which Auckland Mayor Len Brown wants to start building in 2016.

He is citing the downtown redevelopment as one reason to kickstart a $250 million cut-and-cover section of the link from Britomart and up much of Albert St.

Precinct chief executive Scott Pritchard yesterday said the company notified the stock exchange through its annual results reporting last week of a downtown start date in the first quarter of 2016. The annual results show the company is in the design phase and hopes to have resource consent and be committed to the project by the middle of next year.

"It would make sense to have works around that location done at the same time," Mr Pritchard said. "Any Aucklander and visitor doesn't want to see the bottom of the city under [construction for years]."

Last night, Mr Brown said it was great news the Government shared the view he heard every day that the rail link should be built as soon as possible.

Mr Brown - who has yet to fund the rail link - told a New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development symposium yesterday that work was coming to the "pointy end" of finding $300 million to $400 million of new funding sources a year to plug an $8 billion to $12 billion transport funding gap.

The Government rejected tolls, a regional fuel tax and congestion charges to meet the gap, and ratepayers baulked at high debt and rates.

- NZ Herald

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