The National Government today announced long-overdue support for an earlier start to City Rail Link (CRL) project. The CRL will double the capacity of the entire rail network, allowing trains every 5 minutes at peak times and enable the extension of rail to the airport and to the North Shore. But the CRL hasn’t always been viewed by the National Government as a game-changer for investment. This time-line charts the major milestones in the run-up to today’s announcement:
1923 Railways Minister Gordon Coates supports of a tunnel from the city to Morningside. Tunnel plans re-emerged several times later but were killed off in the 1950s in favour of motorways and again in 1976 by then Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon.
2002 Campaign for Better Transport starts lobbying for rail transport solutions in response to Auckland’s severe road congestion.
2004 Auckland City Council prepared preliminary plans for an underground railway link through Britomart.
2007 Green Party secures funding in the 2007 Budget for the electrification of Auckland’s commuter rail enabling the CRL project to move from a concept to a reality.
2008 Greens welcome Auckland Regional Council’s support for a CRL.
2008 Auckland Transport Blog started to provide expert commentary on transport and urban form issues. The blog was to become a key supporter of the CRL.
2010 (July) Green Party launches its Fast Track the CRL campaign.
2010 (October) Len Brown made the CRL his top election priority and was elected Mayor by a landslide.
2011 (May) The National Government reviews an initial business case for the project but remained unconvinced of the economic benefits of the CRL.
2011 (July) Auckland Council Business Advisory Panel announces its support for the CRL.
2011 (August) After questioning in the House, Steven Joyce, Minister of Transport claims the CRL would “take only about 1,500 to 2,000 cars off the road a day. I think that would be a very small return for about $2.3 billion investment…it has a benefit cost ratio of 0.3.”
2011 (November) Gareth Hughes announces Green Party would fund at least 60%, or $1.4 billion of the major missing piece of Auckland infrastructure, a CRL.
2012 Research New Zealand poll shows two-thirds of Aucklanders surveyed want the CRL.
2012 (May) The Automobile Association comes out in opposition to the CRL yet, when polled, 77 percent of their own membership supported a CRL. (One year later, the Association would change its position and support the CRL.)
2012 (December) CRL gets finally gets its “big donor lobby group” in the shape of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.
2013 The National Government shifts position from opposition to conditional support for a 2020 start to the CRL.
2014 Auckland Transport starts purchasing property along the CRL route.
2014 (August) Another poll shows Aucklanders favour spending on the CRL over roads by a ratio of four to one.
2014 (August) Green’s pledge $1.3 billion in funding for the Auckland CRL and to start it immediately during the 2014 election campaign.
2014 (December) The National Government’s funding delays are estimated to add $272 million to the final cost of the CRL. That same month, they announce their ten year $39 billion transport investment plan: 85% ($33 billion) will be spent on roads and only 13% ($5 billion) on alternatives like rail.
2015 (September) The CRL fully consented by the Environment Court
2015 (December) Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler takes the unusual step of saying that the Government needs to spend more on infrastructure projects in Auckland to support its growth.
2016 Auckland train patronage rises an impressive 23% over the last year meaning Auckland is on track to reach National’s 20 million rider target by 2017, three years earlier than National’s 2020 start date.
Today Prime Minister John Key finally announces that the Government will bring forward construction of the CRL by two years to 2018, although remains vague on the exact timing and size of the Government’s funding commitment.