Auckland's Mt Eden train station will be the hub for tunnelling and will close for almost four years. Photo: Nikki Mandow.

Phil Goff warns of further city centre chaos as the City Rail Link project enters stage three

Auckland’s Mt Eden station will close for up to four years from June next year, the Wellesley Street and Victoria Street intersections with Albert Street will close for months (but not at the same time), and there will be major disruptions at Pitt St, Mt Eden Rd and Beresford Square.

That was the message from Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, as he announced the next phase of construction for the City Rail Link .

Goff warned the Wellesley and Victoria Street road closures would mean things would be “crap” in the CBD for up to three years, including for council staff in their Albert St offices right between the two junctions. 

But he said improved public transport was the only way to deal with Auckland’s increasing population. 

“Auckland wasn’t designed for two million people. I remember once trying to drive across New York. I never did it again.”

It’s the ‘no gain without pain’ theory, Goff says.

Construction work on the tunnels and the new Aotea train station under Albert Street starting early next year will see:

– Victoria St reduced to one lane at the Albert Street crossing from January to March; 

– the Wellesley Street-Albert Street junction closed from March to December next year; 

– Victoria St completely closed from January 2021 to July 2022;

– the lower part of Albert Street remaining closed until the end of 2020.

It’s not just cars going to be affected – Wellesley Street is a major bus corridor.

CBD chaos.

“It’s inevitable if you are wanting to dig a tunnel under a street you have to close the street,” Goff says. “We’re warning of the disruption it’s going to cause, but look what we are going to create at the end.” 

Remind me, what are they going to create?

Basically the City Rail Link is a brand new, two-tunnel, underground rail line extension from Britomart up under Albert Street and Vincent Street to K-Road, and then under the mess of motorways at the top of the town to Mt Eden Station. 

The project will potentially triple rail capacity into the city and speed up journeys into the city. The trip from Henderson, for example, should be 10 minutes shorter.

The new underground line will be 3.45 kilometres long and will have two new stations – Aotea and Karangahape. 

“It isn’t easy. This hasn’t been done before in New Zealand,” Goff says.

He says central and local governments will be spending $6 billion in the city over the next five years, and the private sector will add $10 billion into that mix. 

Top of the town

Building the Karangahape station will see Beresford Square (it’s actually a street, not a square) closed permanently from January next year. And Pitt Street will be single lane all through 2020 and until the middle of 2021.

Goff said chaos at the K-Rd end of town won’t be as extreme as in the CBD, because the Karangahape station is going to be built using a kind of laser surgery approach. Two shafts will be pushed down from Beresford Square and Mercury Lane. 

Artist’s impression of the Karangahape City Rail Link station

So why exactly is Mt Eden station closing?

Aha. Basically Mt Eden station will be the hub of the main tunnelling stage of the project, with massive boring machinery being assembled there and two tunnels constructed from Mt Eden station into the city. 

Trains will still run through, but won’t stop at Mt Eden. Instead the hundreds of people that use the station every day (600 get off there during the three-hour peak morning rush) will have to use Grafton or Kingsland stations.

Auckland Transport’s network development manager Pete Moth said Mt Eden is “one of our busier stations and growing quickly”. It will close from June 2020 until the end of 2024, but will reopen transformed from its present unprepossessing appearance.

Passengers at Mt Eden station were split between frustration at the news and anticipation of better things to come.

Take Lilo, who uses the train every day to go to university. “It’s going to be really inconvenient for a lot of people,” she said. “Grafton is a 15-minute walk.”

But Ismail, who gets off at Mt Eden every day on his journey to work from Manukau, welcomed the “short term pain for long-term gain”.

“It’s great. We’ve finally got progress in the transport space. It’s going to be a bit of a walk to Grafton, but it’s future-proofing the city.”

Nikki Mandow was Newsroom's business editor and the 2021 Voyager Media Awards Business Journalist of the Year @NikkiMandow.

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