Haere mai! City Rail Link welcomes early Christmas “gift”
City Rail Link’s latest “employee” – the tunnel boring machine (TBM) known as Dame Whina Cooper – has arrived in Auckland after a voyage of more than nine thousand kilometres from its factory in southern China.
The machine to excavate the rail tunnels for New Zealand’s largest ever transport infrastructure project arrived in sections on board the BBC Orion and will now be trucked to the City Rail Link site in Mt Eden for reassembly.
“It’s a bit like getting a very early Christmas present,” says Francois Dudouit, Project Director for CRL’s Link Alliance. “Every part of the tunnel boring machine was neatly boxed away or bundled up in protective wrapping, and while we may know exactly what we’re getting there’s still plenty of excitement to come opening up everything and putting it all together again.”
City Rail Link Ltd’s (CRL Ltd) Chief Executive, Dr Sean Sweeney, says the TBM’s arrival signals an important transition for the project.
“A lot of our work until now has focussed on getting ready for the heavy work ahead. The building blocks are in place and the arrival of Dame Whina Cooper marks a symbolic crossover from those enabling works to the complex and hefty job of finishing our tunnels and stations – construction is ramping up quickly,” Dr Sweeney says.
Dame Whina Cooper also arrives with a Christmas dividend for Aucklanders. The project is planning an open day in December to allow people a close-up look of the machine that will help transform the way they can travel around the city.
“It’s a chance for us to say, ‘thank you’, for the fantastic support we get from the community, and to explain the work of the project’s very clever mechanical star and the big changes it is going to bring to Auckland,” Dr Sweeney says.
Further details of the open day will be announced next month.
Over the next few days a small convoy of trucks will transport the TBM from the port to Mt Eden, where it will be reassembled and retested before it starts tunnelling next year.
“The TBM was thoroughly tested before leaving China, but there will be further checks on site. It is very advanced technologically and we want to make sure we have a concrete-solid machine in place and ready to do the job it has been specifically designed for – operating in Auckland’s unique soil conditions to build CRL’s rail tunnels,” Mr Dudouit says.
The Link Alliance – the group of New Zealand and international companies building the substantive tunnels and stations contract for CRL Ltd – will use the TBM to excavate two 1.6-kilometre-long tunnels from Mt Eden to the CBD to link with the tunnels already dug from Britomart Station. The TBM has been designed to also remove tunnel spoil and install concrete segments to line those very tunnels.
Work will start later this week on the excavation of the first 51 metres of the tunnel at Mt Eden. The excavation of the cavern and trench provides room for the TBM to be fitted into position to take over mining.
TBM tunnelling is due to start next April. Before then, mining conventions will be observed when the reassembled TBM is blessed and formally named Dame Whina Cooper. Big machines working underground are traditionally named after inspirational women. Earlier this year New Zealanders voted for the TBM to be named in honour of the Māori rights champion, Dame Whina Cooper.
When tunnel excavation starts people will be able to keep track of Dame Whina Cooper’s progress. An on-line link will measure the TBM’s journey below Auckland in real time.
People can also stay up to date with the City Rail Link project at: www.cityraillink.co.nz
Ngā mihi | warm regards
City Rail Link Ltd | Level 2, 25 Teed Street, Newmarket, Auckland 1023
PO Box 9681, Newmarket, Auckland 1149, New Zealand
M +64 27 275 6868 | E ewart.barnsley@cityraillink.,govt.nz