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Full steam ahead


An aerial view looking down at Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) 3 Isabelle beginning the tunnelling project at Sydney Metro's Cherrybrook Station as part of the North West Rail Link. An aerial view looking down at Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) 3 Isabelle beginning the tunnelling project at Sydney Metro's Cherrybrook Station as part of the North West Rail Link.

Three of the North West Rail Link’s four massive tunnel boring machines (TBMs) are now in the ground and tunnelling, as work continues on Australia’s biggest public transport project.

The third tunnel boring machine started digging today at Cherrybrook. The second, Florence, got underway at Bella Vista late last week – joining the first machine, Elizabeth, which has already dug more than 700 metres.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said it is now full steam ahead on the North West Rail Link which is set to open to customers in the first half of 2019. “This is another major milestone as we get on with the job of building the North West Rail Link, which is the first stage of Sydney Rapid Transit, the city’s brand new modern railway network,” she said. “The North West Rail Link is the first transport infrastructure project in Australian history to use four tunnel boring machines at once – that’s a great example of the sheer size of this world-scale infrastructure project.”

The first two TBMs are digging 9 kilometres from Bella Vista to Cherrybrook and the second two will travel 6 kilometres from Cherrybrook to Epping, delivering the twin 15 kilometre North West Rail Link tunnels. The four mega tunnelling machines are supporting 900 new jobs as part of the $1.15 billion tunnelling contract, which was awarded in June last year.

The North West Rail Link will include:

  • Australia’s first rapid transit fully-automated trains;
  • A train every four minutes in the peak, or 15 an hour, with 98 per cent reliability;
  • Eight new railway stations – two more than originally planned;
  • 4,000 commuter car parks, and
  • Five existing stations upgraded to rapid transit standards.

Ms Berejiklian said she was also pleased to release new designs for Cherrybrook Station, which will be delivered as part of the $3.7 billion North West Rail Link operations contract signed in September. “Cherrybrook Station will include state-of-the-art platform screen doors, lifts for customers, a new bus interchange and 400 commuter car parking spaces,” she said. “The station’s landmark arching roof canopy design was inspired by the local Blue Gum High Forest, in keeping with the local environment. “Rapid transit will transform the way of life for people in the North West and it’s fantastic that residents are able to see the features and designs of their local stations taking shape.”

Facts – Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs)

  • Tunnel boring machine Elizabeth started digging at Bella Vista in early September and has travelled more than 700 metres on its way to Norwest Station. 
  • Tunnel boring machine Florence started digging at Bella Vista late last week. 
  • Tunnel boring machine Isabelle started tunnelling today at Cherrybrook. 
  • A fourth tunnel boring machine will join Isabelle at Cherrybrook and start digging to Epping Station. 
  • To get down to tunnelling depth at Bella Vista, about 120,000 tonnes of rock was removed from the Bella Vista station ‘box’, and most of it re-used on the wider construction site.
  • At the Cherrybrook tunnelling site, 75,000 tonnes of rock was dug out to get to the tunnelling depth of 16 metres. 
  • On major tunnelling projects around the world, underground workers look to Saint Barbara for protection and, because of that, machines that work underground are traditionally given female names. 
  • The first tunnel boring machine was named after local colonial pioneer Elizabeth Rouse by local school students, tunnel boring machine 2 was named after Australia’s first female engineer Florence Mary Taylor by the community and the third tunnel boring machine was named Isabelle by the tunnel builders, to represent the workers.

Isabelle joins the big dig

Third tunnel boring machine Isabelle arrives in the north west

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