For Elizabeth, the North West Rail Link's first tunnel boring machine, life has been a bit of a journey so far – almost 7,000 kilometres, in fact. After being built and tested overseas in France and China, Elizabeth was then pulled apart for her three-week journey to Australia.
The mega machine filled 18 shipping containers, while 27 other large pieces had to travel separately because they were too big to fit into a container. Those pieces included the cutter-head, which will dig through hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rock 9 kilometres from Bella Vista to Cherrybrook. When fully assembled, Elizabeth will be 120 metres long – or almost as long as two A380 super jumbo jets end-to-end.
All four North West Rail Link tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will together build Australia's longest railway tunnels – twin 15 kilometre tunnels between Bella Vista and Epping. After being dropped off at the Port of Newcastle, TBM1 Elizabeth is currently at the Bella Vista tunnelling site where she will be re-assembled and tested. Tunnelling is expected to start in October.
Elizabeth was named after Elizabeth Rouse, a colonial farming pioneer from Sydney's North West in the first half of the 19th century. Following a competition among local schools, she was named by Alexandra Marshall of Rouse Hill Anglican College.