Cross River Rail’s first mega machine to “disappear” under Brisbane

Minister for Police and Corrective Services and Minister for Fire and Emergency Services The Honourable Mark Ryan

The Palaszczuk Government continues to deliver its plan for economic recovery with the first huge Cross River Rail Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) about to head underground.

Part of the Palaszczuk Government’s $50 billion infrastructure pipeline over the next four years, the TBM will lay the foundations for a new rail line and more construction jobs, and only re-emerge later this year after it has finished tunnelling under the Brisbane River and CBD.

Acting Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Ryan, who inspected TBM Else – named after trailblazing female engineer Else Shepherd AM – said she would now be moved into position underground in the Woolloongabba site’s station cavern to commence tunnelling later this month.

“2021 is the year of tunnelling for the transformational Cross River Rail project, and this milestone really marks the start of it,” he said.

“Thanks to the health response of Queenslanders, the Palaszczuk Government has been able to get on with the job of creating jobs and delivering our state’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan, which includes building Cross River Rail.

“More than 100 local companies and 40 workers have played a role in bringing these TBMs to life, part of the 2,400 people so far who have worked on Cross River Rail.

“The Palaszczuk Government is creating thousands of jobs in industries like construction as part of Cross River Rail, and another 23,600 jobs right across Queensland as part of our record $26.9 billion roads and transport program.

“After today, TBM Else won’t see the light of day until she emerges from the project’s northern portal at Normanby towards the end of the year.

“Cross River Rail’s other 1350-tonne mega machine – TBM Merle – will follow shortly after to ensure the project’s twin tunnels are completed before the year is out.”

Mr Ryan said a traditional indigenous ceremony was held to mark the significant milestone.

“The TBMs have one of the most crucial jobs of the entire project – excavating the bulk of Cross River Rail’s 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels right under the Brisbane River and CBD,” he said.

“It is only fitting that we mark such an important occasion for the project, with the traditional owners’ ceremony intended to wish TBM Else and the tunnellers safe passage as they make their way underground.”

Mr Ryan said the TBMs would tunnel through 20 to 30 metres of hard rock a day, with a crew of up to 15 people working on them at any one time.

“From Woolloongabba, the TBMs will tunnel under the river and break through to Albert Street station at a depth of 31 metres in mid-2021 and continue to Roma Street before emerging at the project’s northern portal at Normanby,” he said.

“The TBMs will line the tunnel walls as they go with 25,000 massive precast concrete segments, weighing 4.2 tonnes each.”

Tunnel Boring Machine fast facts:

  • Each TBM weighs 1350 tonnes and is 165 metres long;
  • More than 40 truck movements are required to transport each TBM to site in parts;
  • A crew of up to 15 people will work in a TBM at any one time;
  • TBMs will work at a rate of 20 to 30 metres per day;
  • The TBMs will install 25,000 concrete segments weighing 4.2 tonnes each along the tunnel walls as they go;
  • At their deepest point the tunnels will be 58m below the surface at Kangaroo Point, and 42m below the Brisbane River;
  • Each TBM is fully equipped with crew facilities, offices and toilets;
  • The TBMs will generate 290,000 cubic metres of spoil as they make way for the twin Cross River Rail tunnels.

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