The NZ Transport Agency says good progress is being made shifting the Rob Roy Hotel - Auckland's oldest pub - back to its original site opposite Victoria Park, west of the city's CBD.
The shift began just after 9am when hydraulic jacks "pulled" the hotel the first 1.8 metres along a series of concrete runways. When the first stage of the operation is due to be completed mid-afternoon, it is expected that the 125-year-old building will have completed just over half of its 44 metre-long journey.
"The progress of the Rob Roy Hotel back to its original site is both stately and rapid for a challenging operation of this nature," says the NZTA's State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker. "Our partners on the Victoria Park Tunnel project and the contractors responsible for the move are doing a fantastic job shifting a delicate old building safely and expertly."
The Rob Roy's journey will take two days. When it is completed tomorrow, the hotel will be on the exact site where it was originally built, except that now the location is on top of the southern portal to the new Victoria Park Tunnel. The return is a straight reversal of the move that was required last year to shift the hotel away from the tunnel construction site.
The hotel's double move is costing around $2.5m. The cost of the Victoria Park Tunnel project is $340m.
The Rob Roy is being "pulled" for the first part of its journey by hydraulic jacks. The hydraulic jacking sledges will then be lifted by crane to the rear of the building so that it can be pushed on to the roof of the tunnel.
"The most critical part of a delicate operation is keeping the hotel level throughout the move," says Mr Parker. "The shift team is monitoring the levels constantly because excessive variation could put a brick building the age of the Rob Roy at risk."
The NZTA will continue to own the building, which will be refurbished as part of a plaza development around the old brick building. The NZTA will next week call for expressions of interest for a hospitality-type business on the ground floor.
The Victoria Park Tunnel project is the first of the Government's seven roads of national significance (RoNS), to start construction. It will support economic growth by reducing congestion, improving safety and journey times, and increasing the capacity of State Highway 1 between the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Newmarket, one of the country's busiest freight and business routes.
Last week, the NZTA announced that drivers can start using the 450 metre-long tunnel built for northbound traffic this November, three months earlier than planned. The entire project, including the widening of State Highway 1 through St Marys Bay and the reconfiguration of the existing Victoria Park viaduct to carry four southbound lanes of traffic, is due to be completed next March, two months ahead of schedule.