New South Wales premier Mike Baird and minister for transport Gladys Berejiklian kicked off the start of tunnelling on the AU$8.3bn (£4.8bn) North West Rail Link by sending off Eliszabeth, the project’s first tunnel boring machine.
"This is a huge milestone in the delivery of this project – it shows we are getting on with meeting our commitments and delivering the vital infrastructure this state desperately needs,” said Baird.
Elizabeth has been assembled at the Bella Vista tunnelling site over the past seven weeks and is 120m long – almost the length of two A380 super-jumbo jets end-to-end. “The four mega tunnelling machines are supporting 900 new jobs as part of the $1.15 billion tunnelling contract which was awarded in June last year,” said Berejiklian.
“I congratulate project director Rodd Staples and the tunnel builders, Thiess John Holland Dragados, on reaching this tunnelling milestone so quickly and look forward to seeing the next three TBMs join Elizabeth in building this critical infrastructure project,” she added.
The next two TBMs are also expected to be in the ground before the end of this year, ahead of schedule.
The North West Rail Link is due to open in 2019 and is the first stage of Sydney Rapid Transit, the city’s new fully automated rail network.