NZ$2.8 billion Auckland rail link back on track 26 Jun 2013
Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
A U-turn by the government of New Zealand has revived proposals for the underground 3.5km-long Auckland Central Rail Link (CRL).

Fig 1. Proposed alignment of Auckland CRL

Prime Minister John Key will announce on Friday (28 June 2013) that the government is, after all, prepared to invest up to half of the estimated NZ$2.8 billion (US$2.2 billion) cost of the rail mega-project.
Two years ago it dismissed the findings of an economic evaluation report prepared by consultants including Parsons Brinckerhoff, Aecom and pwc, saying that the business case had been exaggerated. That report was compiled on behalf of Auckland City Council, which has developed a concept alignment for an underground link it sees as vital in tackling the city's chronic traffic congestion problems.
Once complete the CRL (otherwise known as Auckland rail loop) will connect the city's Southern and Western Lines via a downtown link between Britomart (currently a terminus station at the end of the Southern Line) and the existing Mount Eden Station (on the Western Line). Three city centre underground stations at Aotea, Karangahape Road and Newton are planned as part of the project.
At this stage it is envisaged that approximately two-thirds of the alignment - the section between the new stations at Aotea and Newton - would be excavated as twin-running TBM bored tunnels. Cut-and-cover tunnels would then connect Newton Station to the Western Line near the existing Mount Eden Station, and Aotea Station to the existing Britomart Station (Fig 1). Tunnel depth ranges between 13m and 42m below surface level.

CRL flythrough video (Video: Auckland Transport)

Auckland Council has already started the process of preserving the corridor of the CRL into its District Plan, action endorsed by a central government business case review. But the same review, in May 2011, concluded the project "does not warrant consideration for a central government funding contribution at this time." Auckland had wanted to be moving into detailed design in time for a 2015 construction start; the latest change of heart by the government compromises by setting a 2020 target date for construction.
"On Friday (28 June 2013) I am giving a speech on what transport initiatives and approaches will go for Auckland over the course of the next 10-20 years, and as part of that we are addressing the proposed Central Rail Link," explained Prime Minister John Key.

Sectional view of proposed CRL alignment

"What has happened recently is that our officials at the New Zealand Transport Agency have come back to the government and said they have moved their position from one of if the rail loop should be built to one of when it should be built. The government has gone away and had a look at that, and what we are now saying is that with the project being in the order of $2.8 billion it is clearly not feasible for Auckland to pay all of that. We don't agree with Auckland Council that the start date should be 2015 and we think it should be more on track for 2020."
Mr Key said that money would not be coming from the New Zealand Land Transport Fund (which comprises taxes and toll fee income from motorists and other transport users), but that it would instead come from general government funds.
New Zealand awards mega-TBM undertaking - TunnelTalk, August 2011

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