We met on 4 February and discussed the proposal contained in your letter of 30 January in relation accelerating the City Rail Link project .
In the days following that meeting you would have seen comments I made in response to media questions about your proposal.
I want to acknowledge firstly your desire to accelerate the City Rail Link project and the work you have done generally to champion it.
We both share an understanding of the importance of the Auckland CBD to the economy and quality public transport is an essential ingredient of a properly functioning CBD and city.
That is why the Government I lead has invested so heavily in such things as electrification of rail in Auckland and major roading projects such as completing the Western Ring Route.
As you are aware in my speech in June last year the Government accelerated the timing of start of construction on the City Rail Link project by a decade – from 2030 to 2020 – and set some conditions for it to be accelerated even further.
In the speech I announced the Government was committing to a joint business plan for the City Rail Link with Auckland Council in 2017 and providing its share of funding for a construction start in 2020.
And I said we are prepared to consider an earlier start date if it be comes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage growth hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest.
While the data from the Ministry of Transport does not currently show the justification exists for further acceleration that does not rule out the possibility that the thresholds will be hit in future.
Your letter also outlined some projects, many being undertaken by the private sector that could be affected by the City Rail Link and raised the question of whether an opportunity existed to reduce disruption to the CBD and some of these projects.
I indicated in the meeting with you that I would be getting some advice on the issues you raise. I am in the process of receiving advice including on the possible impact on some of the projects you cite.
I would also anticipate that officials and the Minister of Transport will continue to engage constructively with your Council and Auckland Transport about issues related to the CRL.
While there are no current indications that the conditions exist for accelerating the CRL as I said earlier that does not rule out such conditions existing in the future.
The fact is that the Government has made a heavy investment in both rail and road infrastructure in Auckland and that will continue.
I am sure we will be discussing this issue again at our next meeting.
Rt Hon John Key
In other words “nice try Len but we’re too busy building a whole heap of roads”.
I happened to run into Len last night and had a quick chat to him. As he always does, he believes the government will eventually come around and he specifically mentioned that he thinks the private sector will start putting more and more pressure on the government to get the project done sooner. I’m also aware that both Key and Brownlee have had discussions with Precinct Properties about their planned development and the CRL and we know they are big supporters of it – especially as some parts of it are effectively a pre-requisite for their plans.
The other thing to remember is that in recent months we have seen rail patronage start to take off again and indications are that March could be a massive month. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if we end up seeing some new records set. What’s more this growth is coming before we see the first electric trains on the tracks carrying actual passengers (which happens one month away today).