Inner-city rail link gets Govt support
VERNON SMALL AND KIRSTY JOHNSTON
The Auckland mayor has got his wish - the Government will subsidise the cost of the city's long-sought rail link.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday confirmed the Government would back the building of the inner-city rail link, but is proposing it start in 2020, later than Auckland Council's target.
Mayor Len Brown's pet project, estimated to cost $2.86 billion, was signed off by the Auckland Council in May last year.
"I am delighted the Government has agreed to support this project," Brown said yesterday.
The planned rail link would require central government to put in funding, but Key yesterday would not say how much the Government would contribute.
He said he would spell out more details in a speech tomorrow, which would cover other transport issues as well as the rail link.
It was not realistic for Auckland to pay for it all itself, or for the Government's share to come from the land transport fund.
It would have to come from a separate appropriation of funds.
"It will have to be paid for by a combination of sources - it won't just be taxpayer funds. Auckland will also have to find ways of paying for its contribution."
The 2020 start time reflected more accurately the likely demand for the use of the new line.
Asked if it was a U-turn by the Government, Key said it had never ruled out the rail link, but had concerns about its patronage.
"It's always been a question of when, not if."
But it would still be "a stretch" in terms of its business case and having the numbers stack up.
The Government was looking at future-proofing Auckland's transport needs.
The link was part of an overall package including a mix of other projects.
The Government had rejected a business case for the project in 2010, and last year asked for a revised business case to be put forward at a cost of $1.7m.
Brown said: "Along with the electrification of rail, the link will be the biggest advance in Auckland transport since the harbour bridge."
It would be his "No 1 priority as mayor".
In April, the Green Party launched a campaign for the rail link, accusing the Government of standing in the way of Auckland's progress.
The proposed Auckland City Rail Link would extend the existing rail line underground through Britomart, under Albert, Vincent and Pitt streets, then beneath Karangahape Rd and the Central Motorway Junction to Symonds St before emerging above ground to join the western line near Eden Tce.
It would be built in two 3.5km-long twin tunnels up to 45 metres below the city.
- The Dominion Post
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