TBM launched at New Zealand’s largest infrastructure project

May 11, 2021

The tunnel boring machine (TBM) that will excavate a 1.6 km tunnel as part of the largest infrastructure project in New Zealand was launched on May 10.

The German-designed Chinese-built machine, named Dame Whina Cooper, was launched at the City Rail Link’s project's Mt Eden site, with final checks about to be carried out before she starts cutting around the middle of this month. The City Rail Link is a $4.4 billion project in Auckland.

"Completing Auckland's City Rail Link has taken an exciting step forward today with the official launch of the machine at the project's Mt Eden site," CRL announced.

The machine will be operated by the Link Alliance: New Zealand and international design and construction companies building stations, tunnels and rail systems.

NewsTalkZB reported that the first 50 m of tunnel at Mt. Eden has already been mined to give room for the front sections of the enormous 130 m-long machine.

That will excavate 1.6 km under the Central Motorway Junction and Karangahape Rd into central Auckland to connect with the CRL tunnels already built from the Britomart Station.

The TBM is expected to complete her first tunnel near the end of the year, then be trucked back to Mt Eden in sections and prepared for its second tunnel drive next year.

Transport Minister Michael Wood described the launch event as an "exciting milestone" for New Zealand's largest transport infrastructure project, "one that is helping our economic recovery and supporting jobs. Building infrastructure like the City Rail Link is part of our COVID-19 economic plan. This project is providing real jobs and opportunities for thousands of Aucklanders. It'll give us a step-change in our public transport and cultivate a diverse and highly-skilled workforce."

Mayor Phil Goff said: "The City Rail Link will transform rail travel in T?maki Makaurau. It will carry up to 54,000 people an hour, moving the equivalent capacity of three Auckland Harbour Bridges or 16 extra traffic lanes into and through the city at peak times."

"The official start of tunnelling represents an important milestone on Auckland's journey toward providing a world-class, 21st-century transport network."

Mining tradition had a significant role at the event. One tradition involved breaking a bottle of champagne on the machine to mark its official launch. Father Christopher Denham of the Catholic St Patrick and St Joseph's Cathedral blessed the machine and the teams who will operate her in acknowledgment to St Barbara, the patron saint of miners and others working underground.

The other significant wahine acknowledged this morning was M?ori rights champion, Kahurangi Dame Whina Cooper. 

"Big underground machines, by tradition, carry the name of an influential woman," CRL said.

New Zealanders helped the project choose the kupu as the most fitting name for the machine.



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