Britomart, built on reclaimed land, was the location of Auckland City's railway station from 1885. In 1930 the station was relocated 1.2 km east to Beach Road and the former station site became the municipal bus terminal in 1937.
Auckland's magnificent Central Post Office (CPO), at the foot of Queen Street, was completed in 1912. Auckland's central train station returned to the Britomart area when the Britomart Transport centre opened in the former and refurbished CPO building in July 2003. It has been the stimulus to drive the redevelopment of the surrounding Victorian warehouse precinct for retail and other commercial use.
For years, thousands of train passengers have poured into the Britomart Transport Centre daily as they dash to catch a train on the platforms below. This is now a hive of construction activity as work continues to turn the dead-end station into a through station.
- Britomart will no longer be dead-ended, enabling more frequent trains with many services more direct
- It will allow 30,000 people on the rail network an hour in peak (double the current number), with shorter travel times across the rail network
- There will be a better connection between rail and bus services
- It creates a better connected city and city fringe: Trains to Aotea will be three minutes from Britomart, Karangahape six minutes away and Mt Eden nine minutes. More on travel times here
- The former Lower Queen Street bus interchange will have been moved to Lower Albert Street
- All heritage values of the former CPO building have to be maintained - the project is working closely with the Heritage New Zealand
- The station will provide bike racks and toilets.
Pre-preparation work begins
These are photos of the work by contractors Downer NZ and Soletanche Bachy (DSBJV) in preparation for the cut and cover works to build the CRL twin tunnels from the outer platforms at Britomart.
This video explains the work being done
Old CPO Clock is being restored
The dual-faced Magneta clock added to the front of Britomart Station's Chief Post Office building in 1938 was removed in May 2017 for fixing and refurbishment.
It will be reinstated when Britomart re-opens.
Britomart - Temporary Entrance
In January 2017, the Queen Street entrances to the Britomart Transport Centre closed for three years so that the CRL tunnelling work underneath could be done.
A new temporary building was built at the back of the centre resulting in the new main entrance for the Auckland transport hub being on Commerce Street. Commuters can also access the station from Tyler St, Galway St and Takutai Square.
Watch the time lapse of the construction of the temporary entrance
How Britomart could look when it re-opens around 2020
Lower Queen Street as a public space
The City Rail Link Design team in conjunction with Auckland Council has been working on the design for Lower Queen Street and Britomart station surrounds for when the CRL work there is completed.
The concept design has just been completed for review by the Auckland Urban Design Panel and the City Centre Advisory Board.
What's proposed is a creation of a stunning plaza and pedestrian space for Auckland in Lower Queen Street outside the Britomart Transport Centre.
The team is working in partnership with Mana Whenua to generate a high quality flexible space that responds to the unique Auckland narrative.
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The removal of buses from Lower Queen Street in 2016 allowed the street to undergo a temporary transformation. Partnering with Activate Auckland, the CRL team installed artificial grass, surface paint and artwork to turn it into a popular public space.
It became a meeting point, a transit space, a transport thoroughfare and a surprise space with buskers, art installations, tour promoters, interactive community events and food stalls and hosted the memorable CRL construction launch ceremony.
Although the space was surrounded by construction zones, the transformation proved to be popular with visitors and locals alike, especially over summer when deck chairs were used daily.
In the beginning
Most of Britomart was underwater until the 1870s. It is now on reclaimed land in the middle of what was once Commercial Bay.
Former headland Point Britomart was once the site of Fort Britomart, an active base for British colonial troops in the 1860s. Its name was taken from a Royal Navy gunship, HMS Britomart, which carried out the first detailed survey of the Waitemata Harbour in 1841.
Before the arrival of Europeans, this headland is thought to have been the site of at least one Māori pā. Ngāti Whātua trace ancestral ties to this area, including sites of ancient historical significance.
In 1840 Ngāti Whātua gifted 3000 acres of land to Governor Hobson for the building of a new capital city. Auckland’s first Union Jack flew, marking the site of New Zealand’s first colonial capital.
In the 1870s and 1880s the headland was levelled in order to extend the railway line to the bottom of Queen Street, and was used to fill in Commercial Bay.
Each improvement in public transport between the years 1840 –1914, served to strengthen Queen Street as the heart of commercial, civic and industrial activity in Auckland.
Initially the town had a raw, denuded look; there were no gardens, no trees, nor even grass, just bare earth gouged out and heaped among unpainted wooden structures. The roads were a mire of mud and horse dung that bogged vehicles and caked footwear and clothing.
In response to the perceived threat of the Waikato Maori, British troops were brought in and constructed both Great North and Great South Roads as well as Symonds Street and Manukau Road in the early 1860s.
But as late as 1871 only three streets (Queen Street, Princes Street and Shortland Street) had been properly formed and adequately surfaced with road metal.
Other improvements included gas supply in 1865, piped water in 1866 and the first asphalted footpaths in 1872.
Telegraph, introduced in the 1860s, linked suburbs and many provincial towns and in 1872 Auckland was connected to Wellington and the South Island. However, it wasn't until thirty years later that the first undersea cable to the outside world was laid.
A long-planned railway between Mechanics Bay and Onehunga opened in 1873 and two years later the rail reached as far as Mercer. However, it wasn't until 1908 that the main trunk line was completed, connecting Auckland to Wellington.
The railway station was brought to the foot of Queen Street in 1885 further enhancing this area as the commercial transport hub until its removal to Beach Road in 1930.
The grand Chief Post Office
What became the Britomart Transport Centre in Downtown Auckland was orignally Auckland’s grand Chief Post Office. It was opened in 1912 by prime minister William Massey in front of a crowd of about 8000.
It was designed by government architect John Campbell and designer Claude Patron in an Imperial Baroque style similar to the Auckland Town Hall further up Queen Street.
Horse drawn trams were introduced in 1884, running a service between Queen Street and Ponsonby Road via Pitt Street and Karangahape Road. At its height in the mid-1890s this service comprised 34 vehicles, 300 horses and 12 feeder buses. The entire horse drawn system was scrapped in 1901 and tracks laid for electric trams.
The Auckland Electric Tramways Co. Ltd was formed in 1899 and electric trams began services to outlying boroughs in 1902. This led to groups of suburban shops along the route, especially at the stops and crossroads. The network was completed when the route reached Onehunga in 1903. In 1919, the Auckland City Council purchased the entire tram system, made further extensions and doubled the tracks to facilitate two-way traffic.
For decades trams used to run through Queen Street to the CPO. After running from 1902 to 1956, they were replaced by trolley buses. Running from downtown at the Waitemata Harbour and across to Onehunga on the Manukau Harbour, they had been the world's only 'coast to coast' tramway system. For years, they had run down Queen Street to the bottom of Lower Queen Street where there was the Chief Post Office, numerous shops and an early movie theatre called the Oxford.
Railway station moves to Parnell
Auckland's main train station was moved to Beach Road in the 1930s.
The area around Britomart station was redeveloped as the "Municipal Bus Terminal" and in 1958 Auckland’s first parking building, Britomart Car Park, was opened next to the bus terminal.
Trams stop running in Queen Street
The last tram travelled down Queen Street in 1956.
The first trolley bus circuit had been introduced in 1938 by Farmers Trading Co. in Hobson Street to link its department store to Queen Street.
The Auckland fleet of trolley buses reached 133 vehicles and in 1964 the service was taken over by Auckland Regional Council. These buses were gradually phased out from the late 1970s in favour of the Mercedes diesel buses and the last trolley bus service ran in 1980.
In 1992 the CPO closed and the building fell into disrepair and also suffered fire damage.
In 1995 the Auckland City Council purchased the CPO building and after refurbishment, it opened in 2003 as the main entrance to the transport centre.
There were designs drawn up for an underground bus terminal but nothing eventuated. Some bus services moved to the area outside the Britomart Transport Centre replacing the open space that Aucklanders enjoyed.
Area regeneration inspired by return of the Transport Centre
The relocation of the central rail station back to the old Central Post Office Britomart site triggered regeneration of this precinct.
Many of the early warehouse and other commercial buildings remain intact and have been recognised as significant or iconic heritage items in the city. These have been adapted and redeveloped to house boutique offices, galleries, high quality retail and brasseries/cafés.
In 2005 Cooper and Company, in consultation with Jasmax and heritage experts Salmond Reed, restored the CPO building including the stained glass dome.
Precinct development announced
In December 2015, Precinct Properties New Zealand Limited announced a $681 million development including a new 39 level commercial office tower and a world class retail centre on the neighbouring Downtown Shopping Centre site. The shopping centre - after 41 years - closed in May 2016 and was demolished by November that year.
The development will be the centre of a new precinct that will encompass Precinct’s surrounding buildings. The area will be known as Commercial Bay, as it was first called when established as Auckland’s trading hub in the 1800s.
A construction contract for the development was entered into with Fletcher Construction. Reflecting Precinct’s development agreement with Auckland Council, construction also includes works to complete the CRL tunnels which will go under the new building.