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Auckland tunneling project will return to work after a five-week lockdown

City Rail Link tunneling

As the New Zealand city finally moves out of full lockdown, most of the workers are going to return to Auckland’s huge City Rail Link tunneling scheme this week– but the project chiefs have warned of “significant consequences” from the pandemic.

Around 750 people are anticipated on-site at the NZ$4.4bn (£2.3bn) project on Wednesday morning compared to just 100 that have been able to remain during the five-week Alert Level 4 period.

Initially, it was released that building the 3.5km twin tunnel rail link would halt totally during the citywide lockdown that was announced on 17 August because of an approved case of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Nevertheless, ministers soon presented consent for TBM Dame Whina Cooper to work at a decreased level to avoid it becoming stuck. Some staff were needed for this job, while others brought site security and maintained other equipment.

Sean Sweeney, the City Rail Link chief executive stated the impact of Covid-19 had been “of a scale and uncertainty we could not have reasonably predicted a couple of years ago”.

He continued that while it would take time to fully understand the full consequences of the pandemic, “it is highly likely there will be significant consequences for the project”.

Auckland is going to move to Level 3 in the first minutes of Wednesday 22 September, and works will return quickly on the project to construct the rail link up to 42m under the city center. Enhanced safety and health measures will comprise physical distancing, extra cleaning, and mask-wearing.

“We’re an important part of the New Zealand economy with our big workforce and our big spend locally on construction materials so we’re keen to get cracking again,” said Sweeney.

He also asserted: “We’ve made the most of the lockdown to be ready for Wednesday – I think we’re in pretty good shape for our teams to make a successful and quick resumption of work. Nevertheless, Covid-19 continues to cast its long shadow and there are challenges and uncertainties ahead.”

Office-based support teams are going to continue working from home, while site staffing levels will gradually be expanded from 750 to the full quota of 850.

The Link Alliance (construction consortium) – which comprises Vinci Construction Grands Projects, WSP New Zealand, and Aecom New Zealand – began boring the first of the project’s two rail tunnels in May this year.

The work is anticipated to be complete in 2024, and the project is designed to double the number of people living within 30 minutes of Auckland’s central business district.

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