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Bring forward rail link or face gridlock - Auckland mayor

Published: 12:00PM Thursday September 12, 2013 Source: ONE News

Auckland's mayor is predicting gridlock if construction of the underground city rail link is not brought forward.

The first of the city's new electric trains was unveiled to the public this morning and Len Brown will be pushing for a 2016 start date of the city rail link if he is re-elected in the upcoming election.

As the first of 57 new trains was unveiled, Mr Brown said it is a day about Auckland's future.

Rail bosses say journeys will be faster and services will be more frequent and reliable.

"The baby of the future of Auckland transport has been conceived," Transport chairman Lester Levy said. "We are the midwife and the obstetrician, we are delivering this service."

The trains will one day zip through the new $2.9 billion city rail link and the Government wants construction to start in 2020 but the mayor wants that brought forward.

"If we wait till that point in time, 93 percent of people in and around the CBD will be completely gridlocked. We just can't have that," Mr Brown said.

The Government says rail patronage and jobs in the CBD need to grow if it is to bring funding forward.

"If those conditions are met then yes, we're amenable to talking to Auckland about that," Prime Minister John Key said.

"But those conditions would need to be met, otherwise you'd be investing quite a lot of capital, the better part of $3 billion, earlier than required."

The new trains should start carrying passengers in April to a new high voltage electrified rail network. They will be tested and drivers trained ahead of the 2014 launch.

Replacing Auckland's ageing diesel fleet, they will gradually be introduced into passenger service on a line by line basis until all 57 electric trains are in service in 2015.

Each three-car train can carry up to 375 passengers - around 100 more passengers than the current trains - and once all 57 three-car trains are in service, they will provide for a 40% increase in network capacity.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said it is an important step in the Government's $1.6 billion project to improve the performance and capacity of Auckland's train network.

The total cost of the fleet is $420 million.