The New Zealand government has approved Auckland’s $4.45 billion City Rail Link (CRL) to resume construction after the COVID-19 lockdown.
Sean Sweeney, CEO of New Zealand’s biggest infrastructure project said his team is champing at the bit for a rapid re-start.
“We’re already inspecting all CRL sites and making them ready for a safe return to work next week,” he said.
Work will resume on Tuesday, April 28 at all CRL sites including the C1 contract at Britomart and LowerQueen Street, C2 in Albert Street, C3 at Aotea in central Auckland, Karangahape Road and at MtEden, and C8 on the southern rail line at Ōtāhuhu.
“Because of our size we’re aware of the big role we have in quickly getting the economy moving again, supporting the contracting and infrastructure industries and seeing our workers safely back on the job,” Sweeney said.
He said the paramount priority will be keeping workers and the wider community safe.
“We had some pretty strict safety measures in place before the lockdown, but next Tuesday’s return to work will be different,” he said.
Sweeny said there will be additional constraints including restricted access to sites, physical distancing, protective clothing and sanitising and cleaning regimes.
“They will all contribute to a successful re-start in the new COVID-19 work environment, and, just as importantly, they will help ensure our workers get home to family and friends virus-free when they finish their shifts,” he said.
Sweeney said it is too early to measure if COVID-19 has impacted on project costs or construction timetables.
“It may be months before we know that once the economy has settled down a bit and we have a clearer picture on the availability of workers, and what sort of shape some of our suppliers both here and overseas are in,” he said.
“I know we have a small team of workers waiting in France because there are no flights here at the moment – that’s not a lockdown issue that‘s a wider international COVID-19 issue.
“A big plus for the project was ability of City Rail Link Ltd (CRL Ltd) and our Link Alliance contractors to be able to keep working on construction and design programmes during the lockdown – time wasn’t wasted and that’s been a big boost for our re-start.”
The project team is investigating opportunities to accelerate some work, including more shifts of work and the use of extra plant and machinery.
“Those ‘shovel ready’ ideas are still in the planning stages but our contractors will be working hard – and safely – to get CRL delivered as quickly as possible for Auckland,” Sweeney said.
Phil Goff, Auckland Mayor, has welcomed the government’s announcement to resume construction and CRL’s re-start news.
“As one of Auckland – and New Zealand’s – biggest and most important infrastructure projects, the City Rail Link will play an important role in the post-COVID-19 economic stimulus,”Goff said.
“It’s critical that CRL construction resumes quickly to help kick start the economy, get construction and infrastructure industry employees back into work and limit as much as is possible the lockdown’s impact on construction timeframes.”
In the meantime, City Rail Link is in the search for an inspiring woman’s name for the project’s Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM).
The TBM is due to arrive from China later this year in sections and reassembled at the Link Alliance construction site in Mt Eden.
The Link Alliance will start tunnelling with the newly named TBM early next year, excavating 1.6 kilometres from Mt Eden to the Aotea Station in central Auckland to connect with the tunnels already constructed from the Britomart Station.
“Tunnelling tradition dictates a TBM cannot start work until it has been given a female name, a sign of good luck and safety for the project ahead. Our search seeks to recognise the many amazing women New Zealand has produced,” Sweeney said.
Shortlisted names include Antarctic scientist Dr Margaret Hayward, transgender politician Georgina Beyer, and Maori welfare and lands champion Dame Whina Cooper.