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Australia’s first autonomous tunnel boring machine launched for Sydney Metro West


TBM Betty being launched TBM Betty being launched
a worker standing beside the newly launched TBM Betty a worker standing beside the newly launched TBM Betty
The name "Betty" printed on the TBM The name "Betty" printed on the TBM

One of Australia’s most loved Olympians Betty Cuthbert has been commemorated with a tunnel boring machine (TBM) in her name on the Sydney Metro West project.

TBM Betty is the third of six mega TBMs set to build Sydney Metro West and has the huge task of carving out the section of tunnel between Sydney Olympic Park and Westmead, via the Clyde Stabling Maintenance Facility and Parramatta Metro Station. 

TBM Betty makes history as the first autonomous TBM to be used in Australia. 

The huge machine is equipped with sophisticated artificial intelligence software that has the capability to automatically steer, operate and monitor the machine. 

While an operator always remains in control of the TBM, the autonomous algorithm takes on the machine’s repetitive tasks leading to increased speed and greater accuracy. 

TBM Betty is 170-metres-long – or longer than two Airbus A380s – and will tunnel approximately 180 metres a week to dig the 4.5-kilometres to Sydney Olympic Park to complete the first leg in its journey. 

Another TBM will be launched at Clyde in the coming months to excavate the second metro tunnel alongside Betty. Once the TBMs arrive at Sydney Olympic Park, they will be retrieved and returned to Clyde, where they will be relaunched in the opposite direction towards Westmead. 

At the Clyde TBM launch site, approximately 138,000 tonnes of material has been removed from the 130-metre long, 20-metre wide and 28-metre-deep box to prepare for TBM Betty’s launch. 

TBM Betty’s namesake, Betty Cuthbert, was not only a four-time Olympic gold medallist but also a Parramatta local who attended Parramatta Home Science School (now Macarthur Girls High School).

It is traditional to give a female name to all machines that work underground – this is believed to bring luck to the workers who look to Saint Barbara for protection.

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