Underground stations for Auckland's $2.86 billion rail tunnels project are being designed to reach beneath entire blocks of the central city.
A map published on Auckland Transport's website shows sprawling "footprints" for three underground stations, plus a western extension of Britomart and a new surface rail passenger interchange off Dominion Rd in Eden Terrace.
Aotea Station, which Auckland Transport expects to be the busiest on the network, is planned to stretch beneath Albert St between Victoria St and Wellesley St West.
The proposed station is shown with two entrances - behind Auckland Council's Bledisloe House near Aotea Square and near the intersection of Victoria St and Federal St, diagonally opposite Sky City. It will be much narrower than the other two underground stations, beneath Karangahape Rd and upper Symonds St.
That is because twin tunnels serving it will be built as covered trenches from Britomart to Aotea Square.
From Aotea Square, the tunnels will be bored to diameters of 7m at depths ranging to 42m below ground, to just south of the top of New North Rd in Eden Terrace - where they will become covered trenches again before joining the western railway line.
Auckland Transport intends seeking land designations for links in two directions to the existing railway line, although it has yet to decide whether to build an east-facing connection as well as one pointing west.
But it is planning a new surface station west of the Dominion Rd bridge over New North Rd, where passengers from western suburbs will be able to change trains, depending on whether they want to travel through the tunnels to Britomart or continue above ground to Newmarket.
Contributors to a transport blog site are disappointed the map does not indicate an entrance to Aotea Station from Queen St via Elliott St, where a long-vacant site has recently been bought for $53 million by a Shanghai businessman planning to build a five-storey hotel tower. But one posting said a developer would have "rocks in their head" not to want to integrate the site with the station, increasing retail rental values by attracting a high level of foot traffic.
A rail project spokeswoman said Auckland Transport was not proposing any joint development at this stage but would not rule that out.
The main entrance for Karangahape Station would be in Beresford Square, and there may be a secondary access point from Mercury Lane.
But only one entrance was planned for Newton Station, on the opposite side of Symonds St from vacant land used for car parking between Khyber Pass Rd and Mt Eden Rd.
Auckland Transport has notified owners of 210 surface properties likely to be needed for the project, and of 70 from which it will need subterranean rights to dig the tunnels, in readiness for seeking a route designation before Christmas.
Public hearings are likely to take place next year, ready for construction to start in 2015, subject to Auckland Council being able to persuade a sceptical Government to support the project.
ON THE WEB
Information about the City Rail Link: http://tinyurl.com/7qdluuv