Physical works for New Zealand’s largest transport infrastructure project – Auckland Light Rail (ALR) – are underway with the start of below ground investigations to test soil and water conditions. During the next six months, ALR will sink 30 holes between 10 to 80m deep along sections of light rail’s indicative 24km long route spanning Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s narrow central isthmus, half of which will be tunnelled.
The Minister of Transport and for Auckland, Michael Wood, was present for the start of work on a bore hole being drilled 40m into a section of Gribblehirst Park, Sandringham. Core samples will be analysed to help decide the most technically viable route for light rail which will connect people to the city’s biggest job centres – the CBD and the airport – and its two universities.
“The first pieces of a very complex infrastructure jigsaw are being put in place, the physical start to a challenging and exciting project that is going to bring so many positive changes to Aucklanders and our city,” says Auckland Light Rail Ltd’s Chief Executive, Tommy Parker.
Auckland Light Rail will also tap into underground information already gathered by two other big infrastructure projects – the City Rail Link and the Central Interceptor, Auckland Council’s underground wastewater pipeline.
Information from the samples will help ALR’s computer team “draw” a 3D picture of below ground conditions along the project’s proposed corridor.
“It’s important and exciting progress in the development of New Zealand’s largest transport infrastructure project, reinforcing the efficient and hard work by our design and planning team to get things moving quickly to deliver a project that is credible, affordable and consentable,” Mr Parker says.
Funding of $16M was approved last year to allow Arup and Aurecon – the two companies in Auckland Light Rail Ltd’s planning and design Alliance – to jump start their work. The ground investigation costs are included in a further $48.45M approved for the Alliance to undertake work necessary to further progress the project for construction.
Mr Parker says the approval also includes further design development of the light rail system, work towards gaining consents, preparation of the Corridor Business Case to secure additional Crown funding, planning for the maintenance and operations as well as investigations and planning to give Aucklanders more clarity by mid-year around light rail’s preferred route and station locations.
The work will allow Auckland Light Rail Ltd (ALR Ltd) to develop its next significant step – lodgement of a Notice of Requirement (NOR) with Auckland Council mid-year to apply for the legal designation and resource consents required to construct the light rail system, and to operate and maintain it into the future.
“But even with our mid-year NOR target, much still needs to be done to complete all the planning and design work a project as big and as complex as Auckland Light Rail needs – 2023 will be very busy,” Mr Parker says.
Light rail will connect the communities of Sandringham, Mt Roskill, Onehunga and Māngere with the airport to the south and the CBD and universities to the north.
ALR’s ground investigations will be confined mainly to parks and reserves to minimise disruption to walkers and road users. It will take around five days to drill each hole. All the core samples will be kept in safe storage and returned to their original sites when analysis work is completed.