Curtain opens on a new dawn for City Rail Link
|A wide curtain burgundy red in colour was opened this morning to reveal state of the art technology that will drive the next stage of New Zealand’s largest transport infrastructure project, Auckland’s City Rail Link (CRL) .
The open curtain at CRL’s Mt Eden construction site gave Aucklanders their first sight of the big Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) named after Māori rights champion Dame Whina Cooper.
“Dame Whina Cooper’s public debut is a tremendous moment for the project and for Auckland,” says City Rail Link Ltd’s Chief Executive, Dr Sean Sweeney. “It is a symbolic signal for the start of hard work underground to build the CRL tunnels and stations that will transform the way Aucklanders can travel around their city.”
Dame Whina’s daughter, Hinerangi Puru Cooper, and her wider family were present at the unveiling and blessing of the TBM. They were joined by Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, Transport Minister Michael Wood, the city’s Mayor Phil Goff, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and other Auckland Iwi who sit on CRL’s Mana Whenua Forum, and community, transport and CRL representatives.
Hinerangi said she was honoured and humbled to be present at the unveiling and had a special message for CRL workers.
“I will say a prayer before you start your work – I want you to be safe – and I know my mother will be there with you.”
Mr Robertson said Dame Whina Cooper is a name that “gives a lot of mana to a project that was building a nation” and Mr Goff describes the unveiling as a “big step in the progress of a project that means much for a better Auckland.“
By tradition, machines working underground like CRL’s TBM carry the name of a woman.
“In our case New Zealanders helped us chose a truly exceptional person, Dame Whina Cooper – and the presence and support of her family is a real blessing for the project,” Dr Sweeney says.
Only the front section of the TBM, called the cutter head, was unveiled. The rest of the machine is still being assembled by the Link Alliance, which has the main CRL tunnel, stations and rail systems package – at the Mt Eden site after arriving in sections from China.
Dr Sweeney says designs on the cutter head based on traditional symbols make the Dame Whina Cooper TBM unique.
The two hands embracing on the TBM iconography is an international gesture of sharing respect and friendship for one another – values shared by Dame Whina.
Three koru (fern) have a dual symbolism. The first, through the balanced shape represents how she supported harmony between all people in Aotearoa (New Zealand). The koru is also symbolic of new life – Dame Whina championed wahine (women) and the protection of tamariki (children).
A second woman of influence was also acknowledged at the event. The unveiling occurred on St Barbara’s Day. St Barbara is an early Christian martyr who is the patron saint of miners and others who work underground.
“For centuries miners all over the world have looked to St Barbara to keep them safe and CRL is no different – her statue oversees work at two of our sites,” Dr Sweeney says.
Work is underway to mine the first 50 metres of tunnel at Mt Eden to accommodate the reassembled TBM. The Link Alliance is due to start TBM mining next April – cutting the first of two underground tunnel 1.6 kilometres long from Mt Eden into central Auckland to connect with the CRL tunnel already built from the Britomart Station.
“Dame Whina’s legacy is one of determination and the importance of working together, values that fittingly apply to this project and our journey ahead to build a world class railway for Auckland,” Dr Sweeney says.
The $4.4 Billion CRL project, sponsored by the Crown and Auckland Council, will make the city’s rail network more efficient. Trains will be able to run more often and more quickly and the number of people living with 30 minutes train travel of central Auckland – New Zealand’s biggest employment hub– will double.
This Sunday, there will be an open day at Mt Eden – the Link Alliance’s Boring Day Out – for people to see the Dame Whina Cooper TBM. All 5,000 tickets for the event have been allocated.