Skip to main content

North West Rail Link passes first tunnelling milestone


A view of a construction worker inside the tunnel at Bella Vista. A view of a construction worker inside the tunnel at Bella Vista.

Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) 1 Elizabeth has reached its first major milestone - tunnelling the first 1 kilometre of Australia's longest railway tunnels.

Elizabeth was in the ground and tunnelling four months earlier than planned, getting on with the job as quickly as possible to deliver Australia's biggest public transport project.

So far, TBM1 Elizabeth has excavated more than 120,000 tonnes of rock and has travelled 1.09 kilometres from the Bella Vista tunnelling site. She is about 36 metres under Norwest Boulevard near Bella Vista Farm, and has been averaging 110 metres a week as she gears up for full production. Starting a tunnel boring machine is a bit like buying a new car and wearing it in - Elizabeth's found her tunnelling groove and now it's full steam ahead.

At the end of tunnelling in 2017, 2.8 million tonnes of rock will have been excavated - or the equivalent of 1,000 Olympic swimming pools. All the crushed rock from tunnelling is being 100 per cent recycled, with none going to landfill. The tunnelling conditions are proving to be ideal as these machines tunnel first through shale then Sydney sandstone - ideal rock for tunnelling. The second TBM2 Florence, has travelled about 117 metres from Bella Vista while TBM3 Isabelle, which started from Cherrybrook in early November, has already travelled 69 metres.

The North West Rail Link is the first transport infrastructure project in Australian history to use four tunnel boring machines, a clear indication of the sheer size and scale of Australia's biggest public transport project.

Article links:

The Daily Telegraph - Inside the North West Rail Link

Sydney Morning Herald - North West Rail Link tunnel carved out by boring Elizabeth

Three major awards wins for the North West Rail Link

Italian Prime Minister visits construction site

Back to top