The country's largest construction project - the $4.4 billion City Rail Link in Auckland - is facing extra costs and delays from the impact of Covid-19.

City Rail Link Ltd chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney today said there is no doubt there will be extra costs due to the month-long level 4 lockdown.

But he said the cost of the project will not be known until the end of the year when CRLL gets a "red pencil" around all the costs.

"The plan is to try and work within our current cost envelope.


"What we are hoping for is if we can have a number of good results in high-risk areas and turn those into positives that will create a bit of a buffer," said the engineer, who has a PhD in construction economics and worked on major projects in Australia before taking on the CRL build in 2018.

The CRL is being jointly funded by Auckland Council and the Government, and will double the capacity of the city's commuter rail when it is built in 2024.

Sean Sweeney, chief executive of the City Rail Link. Photo / Herald
Sean Sweeney, chief executive of the City Rail Link. Photo / Herald

As well as construction delays, Sweeney said CRLL is trying to get 50 highly specialised technical workers from France, the Middle East, Asia and Australia involved with the piling and foundation engineering into the country.

It is also working on bringing out specialist engineers from Siemens in Germany to
reconfigure the existing rail track at Mt Eden where a large work site is being set up to bore dual tunnels to the city end of the project.

The company is seeking help from the Government to get the workers into New Zealand, Sweeney said.

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He said the company building the boring machine in China has also lost a few weeks, but the situation is now improving.

"Covid-19's tentacles are basically spreading in a lot of directions and we just need to keep tracking the consequences," Sweeney said.

Today, he was rapt after doing the rounds of CRL sites where some 200 workers have resumed work in the central city, off Karangahape Rd, Mt Eden and a project-related contract at Otahuhu with KiwiRail.

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It is a slow, deliberate restart with workers being re-inducted to the expanded Covid-19 protocols for level 3 with "more controls, more plans, more disciplines", he said.

Sweeney said the mood was generally very positive, but the occasional worker was a bit apprehensive after returning from their bubble to a work site.

The number of workers is expected to ramp up to 400 by the end of the week, the same level before lockdown. About 850 staff in design, construction engineering, consenting and procurement have carried on working during the lockdown.

"If this had happened a year later, it would have had a much bigger impact because we would have had 1600 people stopped on the site, not 400," he said.

An artist's impression of an entrance to the Aotea Centre station in the city. Image / File
An artist's impression of an entrance to the Aotea Centre station in the city. Image / File

Work also resumed today on the $1.2 billion central interceptor project, a giant sewer tunnel running from Western Springs to Māngere to help clean up Auckland's polluted beaches and waterways.


About 50 staff turned up for work on site alongside the Māngere Wastewater Treatment Plant for safety briefings. Construction work begins tomorrow.