Mind the (history) gapHome » Blog » Annabel McAleer » Mind the (history) gap
Auckland has a history of getting rail wrong. Will this year's proposal be different?
I know this makes me sound like Marcus Lush (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I am tremendously excited by the proposed underground rail network for central Auckland ... even though in all probability it won't get built.
An underground rail link for Auckland was first proposed in 1923, by Railways Minister Gordon Coates. The idea next gained traction in the 70s, under Auckland's longest-serving mayor Sir Dove-Myer Robinson.
His vision was to develop a rapid transit network for Auckland, with rail as the backbone. In July 1973 the Labour government agreed to fund electrification of the railway network between Auckland and Papakura, and an underground rail loop from downtown, via the central city to Newmarket. The proposed inner-city loop included an underground station on the Britomart site.
Everything was looking good ... until the National government decided that the transit network was too expensive. They canned the scheme in 1976.
Thirty-two years later, Finance Minister Michael Cullen has—finally—asked Government rail agency Ontrack to work on designating a route for a 3.5km tunnel between Britomart and the Western line at Mt Eden. The Herald reported last week that a 'central station' bigger than Britomart is proposed for Albert Street (see left), 18 metres underground.
It's heartbreaking to think of the kind of metropolitan, cosmopolitan, world-class city Auckland could be right now, if either of the 1923 or 1973 plans had been followed through.
Could history repeat itself if Nation wins this year's election? Let's hope not. If you support underground rail for Auckland (or a rail connection to the airport, for that matter) email National's Spokesperson for Transport, Maurice Williamson, and let him know.