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Auckland City considers urban rail link

8 December 2003

Auckland City considers urban rail link

The construction of an underground rail link extending from Britomart to the Civic, Pitt Street and the Western Line has been given serious consideration by Auckland City Council’s Transport Committee.

Investigation show the underground link would provide more direct connections for passengers travelling to and from both Waitakere and Manukau cities, and how it could incorporate links to the North Shore in the future.

The committee received the results of a feasibility study and preliminary cost assessment for the link that would turn Britomart into a through station rather than a terminating point for rail journeys.

The study was commissioned in July this year and followed on from a previous investigation that found the option was technically viable. The study found it would be possible to extend Auckland’s existing rail network westwards from Britomart with an underground tunnel, which would connect with the Western Line near Mt Eden Station.

The link would enable through train services to operate across the region and allow for the possible creation of an inner-city rail loop with the addition of three stations in the central area – bringing most of the Central Business District (CBD) within a short walk of a station. The study also recommended a preferred route for the connection, should it go ahead; via Albert Street, Mayoral Drive, Vincent Street, Pitt Street, under the central motorway junction to Exmouth Street and the Western Line. This would also leave open the future possibility of connecting the CBD with the North Shore, via a rail tunnel under the Waitemata Harbour.

Following presentation of the report, the committee resolved to forward the work done so far to the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) to be considered in the next Regional Land Transport Strategy review.

Construction costs for the project are estimated to be in the region of $500 million (plus or minus 30 per cent) although the report adds that construction of the tunnel could save over $100 million upgrading the rail network elsewhere.

A high level economic evaluation carried out in conjunction with the study indicated that the project could be justified in the medium term. A project steering group representing Auckland City Council Rapid Transport and Transport Planning Groups, Auckland Regional Transport Network Limited (ARTNL) and the ARC oversaw the project.

“An underground link is constructible and has economic and transport benefits,” said Councillor Greg McKeown, Transport Committee chairperson, “but needs to be considered alongside other projects for the future. Turning Britomart into a through station would increase its capacity and optimise the city’s investment in it, and the region’s investment in rail rapid transit. It would also vastly increase Aucklanders’ access to key locations in the Central Business District (CBD). The prospect of achieving the Rail Business Plan patronage targets (25 million passengers in 10 years) would be greatly enhanced and the developmental benefits for Auckland City could be very considerable. We are recommending that it be considered by the region when the Regional Land Transport Strategy is next updated.

“Britomart has been built at a depth that allows for this underground option. An underground option provides for a high-speed, high capacity rail link through the CBD which does not get caught up with the cars, buses, commercial traffic and pedestrians at street level,” said Mr McKeown. “It is a viable option for the future that needs to be on the table for discussion today. Meantime, we are also moving ahead with bus priority and ferry terminal improvements through the CBD in the shorter term.”


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