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Auckland rail link could cost $3.4 billion

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/09/2016

An artist's impression of the City Rail Link Aotea Station © Auckland Transport An artist's impression of the City Rail Link Aotea Station The government has officially agreed to cough up for half of Auckland's City Rail Link - but the project's estimated cost has just jumped by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Mayor Len Brown on Wednesday signed off on a deal confirming the link, which will see two 3.4-kilometre rail tunnels installed under central Auckland by 2023 - will be half-funded by the government.

But although earlier estimates had the project cost at between $2 billion and $3b, the council now says it'll be at least $2.8b and could go as high as $3.4b.

Announcing the legally binding agreement, Mr Bridges told reporters the costs had been revised towards a more "realistic" figure as planning got further and became more detailed.

"We have confidence in those numbers, but they will continue to be refined," he said.

Mr Brown said both the government and council would be working to bring the cost in towards the "lighter" $3b figure.

As part of the deal, a special entity will be set up to manage the project, while a number of governance and risk-management issues are yet to be agreed on.

About $280 million has already been spent since work began at the city's central station, Britomart, and Albert Street in June.

Planners say the link will double the capacity for commuters heading to Britomart, but the government and Auckland Council have not always seen eye to eye on the project.

Mr Brown has championed the project since 2010.

But central government was initially sceptical about the project's value and only in 2013 offered to fund half the work, with a caveat it wouldn't provide the money to start the project until 2020.

Earlier this year, it announced it would be moving the funding up and says the project is a key part of Auckland's future development.

The complete project will create a new line from the Viaduct to Mount Eden, creating a loop around the central city.

It will rank among the biggest and most expensive public transport projects ever in New Zealand.

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