10 Feb 2014

Officials mull mayor's rail proposal

11:34 am on 10 February 2014

Government officials are considering a proposal by Auckland mayor Len Brown to start building the city's downtown rail tunnel in 2016, four years earlier than planned.

Mr Brown has told Prime Minister John Key that the council could fund the early years on its own, providing the Government agreed to pick up half the final cost.

Len Brown.

Len Brown. Photo: RNZ

The Government has backed the $2.8 billion dollar Central Rail Link, but with a start in 2020, and no commitment to how big its share would be.

Mr Brown says waiting for the 2020 start will delay other important projects along the route and worsen disruption until the tunnel is built.

"It's a discussion that really will need to take place over the next few months." Mr Brown said. "The commercial sector are making decisions and in many ways they are now driving this project. Their investment is doing that - they believe it and see it."

The mayor said an earlier start would bring forward major plans by the private sector to invest in developments along the tunnel route and around new downtown stations.

Councillor George Wood said care is needed with the new proposal, because the city still does not know how it will fully fund its own share.

Mr Brown said much of the council's share is included in its long term budget, and the further discussion would be about the balance of the money required.

The Prime Minister's office said the Government's position is unchanged but that officials are looking at Mr Brown's proposal.

The Labour Party said the Government should agree to the mayor's plan, while the Green Party said it supported the 2016 start and a 50% Government share.