Commuters in central Auckland told to expect massive disruptions once excavations begin.

Main work on the $2.5 billion City Rail Link is due to start in May next year, beginning with a new entrance for commuters at the rear of the Britomart train station.

The largest rail project in New Zealand, eclipsing the $1.4 billion Waterview motorway connection, has been on the planning and political books since 2009.

Mayor Len Brown picked up the former Auckland Regional Council project as his number-one priority for the new Super City, although the Government is dragging its feet and will not start funding its $1 billion share of the cost until 2020.

Senior council staff have told the Herald that main works on "cut and cover" tunnels from Britomart through the redevelopment of the Downtown Shopping Centre and up Albert St to Wyndham St are programmed to begin next May.

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Work diverting a large stormwater pipe buried deep under Albert St will begin in November this year when a couple of lanes of Victoria St, east of Albert St, are taken for a hole to bore a new stormwater pipe.

Chris Meale, the City Rail Link project director, says the work is going to be disruptive but the sooner it is done the better.

From May, a number of closures will take place. Lower Albert St will be closed to general traffic for buses and construction work on the Downtown Shopping Centre. As work progresses up Albert St, traffic will be limited to service vehicles. Eventually the street will be closed from Quay St to Wyndham St.

Bus services face major changes. Northern and western bus services will run from Lower Albert St; southern and eastern services from Customs, Quay and Commerce Sts. A full bus plan will be released in September or October this year.

The busy intersection of Customs and Albert Sts will be restricted from May. It will be excavated in stages to keep traffic flowing.

Mr Meale said the old Chief Post Office and main entrance to the Britomart train station will also be closed from May to be gutted for the construction of the two underground train tunnels.

A new, glass-covered entrance will be built at the rear of the station to provide access to the underground platforms.

CRL work programme

November 2015:

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Work begins diverting stormwater pipe in Albert St. Will affect two road lanes on Victoria St, east of Albert St.

May 2016:

Main works begin. Lower Queen St and CPO entrance to Britomart train station closed. New entrance at rear of CPO built. Lower Albert St closed for buses only. Albert St, from Customs St towards Wyndham St closed to general traffic. New bus plan implemented. Details announced in Sep /October this year.

2018/19:

Enabling works completed.