The City Rail Link (CRL) Project – New Zealand’s Largest Infrastructure Project
About the Project
The City Rail Link (CRL) is the largest infrastructure project in New Zealand and is currently under construction in Auckland. It is an adapted version of previous proposals to improve the rail network to the city centre, with some proposals going back as early as the 1920s.
The project consists of the construction of a 3.45 km long twin-tunnel underground rail link up to 42 metres below the city centre. The double-track rail tunnel will run between Britomart Transport Centre (which is a dead-end station) and Mount Eden Railway Station.
The project has received strong support from the public, however, its planning and funding have also been controversial. The government announced its support for CRL in June 2013, but the commencement date was only set to 2020.
In January 2016 the Prime Minister confirmed the funding for the project. The project is jointly funded by the Government and the Auckland Council and its total cost is estimated at $3.4 billion.
The project is due completion in 2024. City Rail Link Ltd is responsible for all aspects of the CRL project.
Auckland’s population has been growing rapidly over the last few years and public transport usage has increased by 63% between 2003 and 2017.
The city is the home for New Zealand’s biggest companies and accounts for over 34% of all jobs. More than 110,00 jobs are located in the city centre which is also becoming a residential location.
Therefore, city centre accessibility is crucial for Auckland’s economic growth.
Currently, Auckland’s rail network is at maximum capacity. CRL will take the pressure of the bus network and roads and will allow the rail network to double its capacity and cope with 54,000 passengers.
Mount Eden Station, where the CRL connects with the North Auckland (Western Line) will be redeveloped with four platforms added and serving as an interchange.
Britomart will be converted from a dead-end station into a through station.
The project is strongly influenced by the Maori culture and tells the story of Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the earth mother.
Two construction consortia were awarded the contracts to start the first construction phase of the CRL.
The Downer JV consisting of Downer NZ and Soletanche Bachy was chosen to design the rail link work through and under Britomart Station and Queen Street to Precinct Properties’ Downtown Shopping Centre site.
The cut and cover tunnels under and along Albert Street from Customs Street to Wyndham Street were awarded to Connectus consortium (McConnell Dowell and Hawkins JV).
The City Rail Link will be constructed in the following ways:
- using cut-and-cover and tunnel boring machine (TBM) methods. The tunnels will vary in depth and will be constructed by installing retaining walls to stop the soil and water from entering the site. The concrete floor, walls and roof will be cast and the completed structures backfilled.
- A 7m diameter TBM will be used where the tunnels are deep.
- Road headers will be used where the tunnels reach the station box or when the tunnels diverge.
- When the TBM reaches Mayoral Drive it will be disassembled and taken back to Eden Terrace where it will be reassembled to bore the second tunnel.
- The backup area for the excavated material will be located at the Mt Eden end.
- The tunnels will be built directly underneath and through a new retail precinct called Commercial Bay which includes a 39-storey skyscraper and is being developed by Fletcher Construction.
The key benefits of the City Rail Link:
- Britomart Train Station will be turned from a dead-end station into a through station, therefore, allowing more than twice the existing train capacity;
- Two new train stations will be added in the CBD;
- Travel times on the Western Line will be significantly reduced;
- Lines on opposite sides of the city will be through-routed via the tunnel, providing direct crosstown rail connections;
- There will be the capacity to add new lines to the network;
- The number of Aucklanders who will have a 30-minute rail access to the CBD will double.
CRL Construction Updates & Milestones
Preliminary stages of construction began in 2016 and include the relocation of stormwater infrastructure and tunnelling in the vicinity of the Commercial Bay redevelopment.
In September 2018 more than 90% of the Albert St trench excavation was completed.
In October 2018 the load transfer of the 106-year-old heritage building Britomart onto underpinning frames was completed.
In December 2018 a major milestone was achieved with the breakthrough from the Albert Street tunnels to CRL tunnels across the Commercial Bay site. A blessing was held for the tunnel boring machine Jeffie used at Mt Eden.
Who will deliver the main CRL works – the stations and tunnels?
The preferred bidder is the Link Alliance (Vinci Construction Grands Projets S.A.S., Downer NZ Ltd, Soletanche Bachy International NZ Limited, WSP Opus (NZ) Limited, AECOM New Zealand Limited and Tonkin + Taylor Limited.
City Rail Link and the Link Alliance will negotiate a $75m Early Works Contract.
At this stage no contract has been signed and there are still a number of processes to go through before a contract award recommendation.
CRL Ltd will continue to resolve several commercial matters before the Contract Award Recommendation for C3 is announced in May, subject to all necessary approvals from the project’s Sponsors – the Crown and Auckland Council.
Project Update May 2019
CRL has reported that the anticipated cost of the project had risen to NZ$4.42bn, an increase on the NZ$3.4bn estimate agreed in 2014.
The revised cost envelope reflects higher costs in four key areas:
Contingency and escalation costs ($310 million)
Construction costs ($327 million)
Accommodating longer, nine-car trains ($250 million)
Non-direct cost ($152 million)
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The City Rail Link has achieved a significant project milestone with the tunnel boring machine breaking through at Karanga a Hape Station.