Preliminary work has started on the NZ$2.5bn ($1.7bn) City Rail Link (CRL) project in Auckland, New Zealand.

The work involves replacement of a new stormwater pipe under Albert Street so the existing one can be removed when the CRL tunnel work starts.

The 3.5km CRL will extend the city’s commuter rail network beyond the current terminus at Britomart to connect with the western line at a triangular junction near Eden Terrace.

The project will also include construction of new underground line at Aotea Square and Karangahape Road, while the existing Mount Eden station will be redeveloped.

The section between Britomart and Aotea Square will involve cut-and-cover construction, while the remaining line will run in twin-bore tunnels at depths of up to 42m.

CRL project director Chris Meale said: "Today was a celebration, but for most Aucklanders, the first piece of work will be largely invisible. A replacement stormwater pipe will be built under Albert Street so that the existing one can be removed when work on the CRL tunnels starts in the middle of next year."

Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-2016 and is expected to be completed by 2024. Auckland Transport (AT) and the project team are responsible for carrying out the construction work.

"A total of 81.2 million passenger trips were recorded in the past year, with a 22.6% increase rail users."

A total of 81.2 million passenger trips were recorded in the past year, with a 22.6% increase rail users.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said: "In 1923, railways minister Gordon Coates gave his support for a city-to-Morningside underground rail line that never happened. In the 1970s, mayor Sir Dove-Myer Robinson’s rapid-rail proposal met a similar fate."

In April, Auckland Transport has appointed Downer NZ and Soletanche Bachy JV and Connectus to carry out the first phase of the CRL construction in the downtown area.

The Downer-led joint venture is responsible to progress the CRL work through and under Britomart Station and Queen Street to the Downtown Shopping Centre site.

Work includes the establishment of temporary accommodation for Britomart Station’s ticketing and customer service operations to support the construction works.

Image: An estimated 80 people gathered to watch the blessing to mark the start of preliminary work on CRL. Photo: courtesy of Auckland Council 2015.