CRL head says Auckland set to have rail network 'people expect of world's best cities'.

News that work is starting next month on its main contract of work is evidence for Aucklanders that the City Rail Link (CRL) project is in good shape to deliver a project that will profoundly change their lives in New Zealand's largest city.

City Rail Link Ltd's (CRL Ltd) C3 contract will be delivered by the Link Alliance. It covers most of the work for New Zealand's largest transport infrastructure project — constructing two inner-city underground station, rebuilding the existing Mt Eden Station and completing the twin rail tunnel under central Auckland.

The key to CRL's success can be found at the bottom of the CBD in Queen St, says CRL chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney.

Advertisement
Dr Sean Sweeney. Photo / Supplied
Dr Sean Sweeney. Photo / Supplied

Converting the iconic Britomart Transport Centre's dead-end one-way station into a two-way through station linked by tunnel to Mt Eden on the city's western line 3.45 kilometres away unlocks the entire rail network to allow more trains in out of the city.

"CRL's many benefits are not unlike those delivered by the Waterview Tunnel connecting two busy motorways," Dr Sweeney says.

He describes those benefits as a "numbers game".

"All those cranes on the skyline — close to a 100 at last count — confirm Auckland is a city under massive transformation.

"Over the next 30 years, a million more people will call Auckland their home. That adds up to investment in infrastructure and rail's part in a re-vamped public transport system that will significantly change the way Aucklanders travel, live in, work in, and enjoy their city.

"There are many challenges ahead and no matter how people get around the city, a project of this scale and complexity is going to cause us all a fair amount of disruption in the years ahead. But the rewards will be great."

When CRL opens, up to 54,000 rail passengers will be able to travel in and out of the CBD during rush hours — double the present capacity of Auckland's rail network.

Sweeney says the capacity to shift that same number by car or bus would be the equivalent of another 16 motorway lanes or three more Auckland Harbour Bridges in a city that already has its fair share of geographical challenges.

Advertisement

Doing nothing about CRL, he adds, is not an option — roads already crowded will become even more congested.

"Melbourne, like Auckland, is another growing city and when I left there last year to come home, traffic jams were appearing on suburban roads where, previously, drivers had a clear run.

"That's the risk for Auckland — a city that becomes an LA-style "parking lot" if we don't build CRL."

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

When CRL opens, the number of people within 30 minutes travel of New Zealand's biggest employment hub, Auckland's CBD, will double.

Sweeney says Aucklanders will be able to forget the timetable, just turn up and go. They will be able to hop on a train at least every 10 minutes at the busiest times.

Add to those numbers the significant travel time savings:17 minutes saved between Henderson and the new underground Aotea Station in the CBD by the Town Hall; 17 minutes from Ellerslie and the other new station on Karangahape Road; 10 minutes shaved off a city centre journey between Britomart and Mt Eden.

CRL will give people a whole new rail service making better use of what is already there. They will be able to hop on train at Henderson and get off at Onehunga or Papakura — no longer the need to change trains along the way.

Sweeney adds that CRL is more than just an extra section of rail track — it gives people much better options when they decide how they will travel around the city.

"Choosing an improved rail service, for example, and leaving the car at home will ease pressure on roads and motorways. At the same time, we expect CRL to contribute to a reduction in bus congestion in the city centre. There's a health dividend, too — more electric trains will mean cleaner air.

"The number of new homes, shops and offices either being built or are being planned along the CRL corridor is counted in hundreds of millions of dollars. Cultural and historic values important to mana whenua will be reflected in the striking designs we are planning for our new stations.

"Our concept designs for those stations are finalists in an international architectural competition.

"Don't forget that this is the largest transport infrastructure project undertaken in New Zealand.

"Its sheer size and complexity will lift the skill and innovation levels of the New Zealanders on our 1600-strong construction team — a legacy that will benefit our country long after the CRL is built," Sweeney says.

The first phase of C3 work will be in the CBD centred along upper Albert St to Mayoral Drive.

Sweeney acknowledges some people will be nervous about the scale of the work ahead.

"It will take time to complete this stage of a City Rail Link that will change Auckland forever.

"What's happening in Auckland is a once in a lifetime event — history in action.

"I have no doubt that when we finish in 2024, Aucklanders will have a modern rail network people expect of the world's best cities."

• More information about the CRL project is available here.

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Contractor's collapse triggers CRL changes

The collapse late last year of the Australian infrastructure company RCR Tomlinson, was a pivotal moment in the delivery of the City Rail Link project.

RCR was due to deliver the project's tracks, and signals and communications systems.

CRL chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney says a City Rail Link Ltd decision to shift that contract into the wider C3 one ensured no time was lost on the procurement process because of RCR's voluntary liquidation.

"Our decision produced positive outcomes and what can only be described as breathtaking developments leading to the start of work next month of the substantive tunnels-and-stations C3 contract," Sweeney says.

April: After an exhaustive competitive tender process, CRL Ltd named the Link Alliance as its preferred bidder for the C3 Contract. The Alliance includes six New Zealand and international infrastructure companies — Vinci Construction Grands Projets S.A.S, Downer NZ Ltd, Soletanche Bachy International NZ Limited, WSP Opus (NZ) Limited, AECOM New Zealand Limited and Tonkin+Taylor Limited (CRL Ltd is also in the Alliance).
April: CRL Ltd announces a revised cost envelope of $4.419 billion. The $1 billion increase on the 2014 estimate reflects significant changes impacting the project in the past 5 years. A $75 million Early Works Contract to be delivered by the Link Alliance is also unveiled.
May: CRL's two sponsors — the Crown and Auckland Council — confirm the additional funding needed to complete the project.
June: Link Alliance starts the Early Works Contract which includes obtaining consents and permits, design work and mobilisation ahead of C3.
July: Link Alliance confirmed as the preferred bidder. CRL Ltd and the Link Alliance, together with the project's sponsors, sign the Project Alliance Agreement clearing the way for the start of C3.
August: CRL Ltd and the Link Alliance announce the first phases of C3 work and start informing the community.
September: Planned start of utility relocations along C3 corridor in Albert St in Auckland's CBD.
2020: C3 construction due to start in first quarter with extension of the Albert St tunnel and building of Aotea underground station.

C3 is one of four current CRL contracts. C1 (lower Queen St/Britomart) is due to finish mid-2021 after the completion of street improvements; C2 (Albert St between Customs and Wyndham Streets) planned to finish late-2020 after street improvements; C6 relocation of a stormwater main has just finished.

CRL Ltd also partners KiwiRail on project-related improvements to the wider rail network.