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Sun June 13 2021

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European build begins for Sydney rail TBMs

16 Sep 13 French manufacturere NFM Technologies has begun construction of four tunnel boring machines that will deliver 15km of twin tunnels for the AU$8.3bn (£4.8bn) North West Rail Link in Sydney, Australia.

“The tunnel boring machines have been ordered and they’re being prepared right now,” said New South Wales premier and minister for Western Sydney Barry O’Farrell. “The first tunnel boring machine will be in the ground next year and the three others will follow soon after.

The North West Rail Link is the biggest public transport infrastructure project in Sydney since the Harbour Bridge almost a century ago. The four tunnel boring machines (TBMs) are for the link’s AU$1.15bn tunnelling contract, which was awarded in late June to Thiess John Holland Dragados. The joint venture appointed NFM Technologies to design, build and deliver the four machines for what will be Australia’s longest rail tunnels.

“This is highly-specialised equipment which is being made specifically for the North West of Sydney by a world-leader in tunnelling which has built more than 100 of these machines for a wide range of geological conditions,” said minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian. She said that the TBM parts are expected to be shipped to Port Botany while the huge cutter heads are planned to be shipped separately to either the Port of Newcastle or Port Kembla, where they will be transported to Sydney by road. "It will be a major logistical feat in itself just getting these huge machines into Sydney – most likely in the middle of the night under escort to minimise the disturbance to as many motorists as possible.”

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Each of the four machines will weigh more than 900t and be made up of 38 large pieces. They will be built using components from across Europe, with the complex and precision components designed and pre-assembled in France then sent to China where steel structures like the cutter heads and back-up trailers will be made. Assembly and testing will take place overseas before they are taken apart and shipped to Australia where reassembly will take about eight weeks.

They are being purpose-built to cut through Sydney sandstone at a rate of about 120m a week on average, staffed by a team of 15 people on every shift, operating around the clock.

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