I’ve long suspected the realities surrounding the City Rail Link and its close relationship to some of the biggest development projects in Auckland would in some ways force the governments hand and require an earlier start than 2020. Yesterday the first sign that the government was starting to move from their position of only having construction start in 2020 started to appear with the Herald reporting they are now considering the construction of part of the project so as not to impede the redevelopment of the downtown mall. Starting at least the northern part of the project has been pushed by Len Brown for some time now and the reason for him doing so was precisely to enable the tower development to go ahead.
The Government is looking at an early start on the $2.4 billion City Rail Link – but only for a short section of the route to go with the redevelopment of the Downtown Shopping Centre. The underground rail link starts at Britomart and goes under Lower Queen St and the shopping centre before turning up Albert St bound for Mt Eden.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee told the Herald he had met Precinct Properties about plans for a $400 million to $500 million redevelopment of the downtown site.
Once those plans were firmed up, he said, the Government would want to see how the rail link and redevelopment might gel to ensure everyone got the best results out of the time the site was under construction.
But Mr Brownlee stressed there was no commitment from Precinct at this point and no commitment from the Government, which wanted construction on the full link to start in 2020. The section of the route under the downtown site “would be lucky to be 100m”, he said.
This is the first public indication from the Government of an early start on the rail link, which Auckland Mayor Len Brown wants to start building in 2016.
He is citing the downtown redevelopment as one reason to kickstart a $250 million cut-and-cover section of the link from Britomart and up much of Albert St.
I’ve suggested in the past that one of the reasons the kick start to the CRL is needed is so that we can integrate the construction with other development including Precinct and the proposed tower on Albert St/Victoria St/Elliot St. Put simply the last thing the owners/developers of those sites will want is to have just spent hundreds of millions on new buildings only to have them impacted by construction for the CRL starting up. Precinct confirm this by saying:
“It would make sense to have works around that location done at the same time,” Mr Pritchard said. “Any Aucklander and visitor doesn’t want to see the bottom of the city under [construction for years].”
However it’s not just the Precinct development that benefits from starting earlier as it also allows Auckland Transport to get on with other projects that will be crucial to the improvement of the city, some of which are outlined in the City East West Transport Study.
Of course once the project gets started – even if just for a small section – there will be a big increase in calls for the rest of the project to happen too, something that the government is keen to avoid.
Overall I don’t think the government are actually serious about starting the project on time and this is likely just to be something they are saying due to the upcoming election. I do think the government will ultimately be forced to commit to Len’s Kick-start proposal so as not to hold up other developments.
While on the topic of the CRL it is also something that came up in the document released the other day by the person who hacked Cameron Slater and was used for the the Dirty Politics book by Nicky Hager. The release shows the contents of a discussion between Slater and Aaron Batnagar who is a former Auckland City councilor and has worked for the National party.
June 27, 2013
Aaron Bhatnagar, 6/27, 12:54am
And so much for Joyce and English warning Banks off promising an inner city rail loop at the last mayoral elections.
Aaron Bhatnagar, 6/27, 12:55am
Because the moment Banks’ campaign went off the rails was when he backtracked on transport because of cost, and left Len looking like the only visionary
So John Banks supported the CRL in his campaign even after being told not to by Joyce and English while him backing off his initial support for rail to the airport and Albany showed he lacked vision. It’s worth noting that the way his campaign rapidly increased the cost of the rail projects was a factor in us creating the Congestion Free Network.
And in September 2013 talking about Maurice Williamson not running against Len Brown
Aaron Bhatnagar, 9/30, 6:13am
Maurice could have been in a real contest sadly. It just would have meant going soft on a city rail loop, but sadly key/Joyce fucked that issue.
So basically an acknowledgment that it’s politically impossible to now win the mayoralty on a campaign of stopping the CRL.