Mixed reaction to cost-cutting rail link changes
A MAJOR revamp of the City Rail Link design has provoked mixed reactions from local government representatives.
But the cost saving of upgrading the Mt Eden station instead of building the Newton one is something everyone supports.
The station site change will save more than $150 million, minimise construction disruption and reduce the number of properties that need to be purchased.
Deferring the purchase of additional electric trains until the network expands will save an additional $330m, adding up to half a billion dollars of savings.
Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy says the move will include Mt Eden commuters on the link and improve operation reliability.
Mayor Len Brown says the design revamp makes the council’s 2016 construction start date ‘‘even more realistic’’.
But councillor Mike Lee says the announcement is premature.
‘‘Whatever works best
I’ll support but I think we need to know more fully what we lose in cutting out the Newton station,’’ Lee says.
‘‘There are good development, patronage and city building reasons to having a station at Newton. I’m a bit concerned that you only hear the negative aspects of having a station there.’’
Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers says he is disappointed but understands the decision.
‘‘We as a board are accepting of the reasons for it but it does change the vision for that area slightly,’’ Chambers says.
The board has spent the past several months developing the Newton Plan and the link would have prompted greater intensification and development in the area, he says.
‘‘There’s a lot in the plan that wasn’t premised solely on the station but it clearly was one of the drivers for it,’’ Chambers says.
‘‘We will certainly have to go back and revisit some of the assumptions there.’’
The Newton station would have been the deepest at 42 metres below ground. Mt Eden, unlike Newton Ridge, is not subject to height restrictions in terms of view shafts and heritage issues, Chambers says.
Albert Eden local board member Graeme Easte says the announcement is good news.
‘‘Under the previous proposal the trains would have been diverted into the Central Rail Link and would have bypassed Mt Eden
‘‘We’d anticipate that people will be much more enthusiastic about developing that area because of the significant improvement in transport options.’’
Councillor Cathy Casey supports getting the link built as soon as possible.
The reduction in cost is good news as is the increase in rail patronage figures, she says.
Councillor Cameron Brewer agrees the savings are encouraging.
‘‘However my firm belief is that this will be a very long and painful project which will experience budget blowouts and burden future generations with billions of dollars of debt,’’ Brewer says.
‘‘I firmly believe we should be working to the Government’s more realistic timetable which is a construction start of 2020 programme, after doing the joint business case in 2017 as has been agreed.’’
Brown says Mt Eden station will better connect the link to the western and the eastern lines.
‘‘This was about engineering and transport best practice,’’ he says.
‘‘And that’s what we’ve achieved as well as getting a $150m saving.’’
The Mt Eden hub will be significant and the benefits will be likely to spill over into Symonds St, he says.
Councillor Cathy Casey
Albert-Eden Local Board member Graeme Easte
Councillor Cameron Brewer
Go to aucklandcityharbour news.co.nz to watch a video about the Mt Eden station redevelopment.