The boring of tunnels on a major road project in Melbourne’s inner west is now complete after the second of two tunnel boring machines completed its journey last week.

The Victorian Government has announced that Tunnel Boring Machine Bella has broken through in South Kingsville- completing a 4-kilometre journey from the west side of the Maribyrnong River under Yarraville to just east of Millers Road near the West Gate Freeway.

The breakthrough – which follows the breaking through and completion of journey for Tunnel Boring Machine Vida in February – marks the completion of the tunnel boring process on the project.

Set to create an alternative river crossing to the West Gate Bridge, the West Gate Tunnel Project will link with CityLink in Kensington in Melbourne’s inner north-west with the West Gate Freeway in Spotswood in Melbourne’s west on the western side of the West Gate Bridge.

It will include two four-kilometre tunnels with three lanes each under the suburb of Yarraville, A 2.8-kilometre bridge over the Maribyrnong River and an elevated road above Footscray Road

The project will also involve a widening of the West Gate Freeway from eight to twelve lanes between the M80 Ring Road and the West Gate Bridge along with creation of 14 km of walking and cycling paths and 9 hectares of new parks and wetlands.

According to the government, the project will deliver a critical alternative to the West Gate Bridge for inbound and outbound traffic between Melbourne’s west and the CBD by providing a second river crossing and will remove around 9,000 trucks from residential streets.

Travel times will be slashed between Melbourne’s west and the city by up to 20 minutes.

However, the project has been saddled with problems during delivery following the discovery that soil to be excavated as part of the project was contaminated with dangerous chemicals that have been widely used in firefighting foam.

This created concerns over where to dump the contaminated soil and led to an acrimonious stand-off between project owner Transurban, its builder CBP John Holland and the Victorian Government over who would wear the additional costs involved in contaminated soil disposal.

(The project will be owned by private transport infrastructure company Transurban and will be funded by Transurban through tolls on the new tunnel and an extension to its City Link tolling rights as well as a contribution from the Victorian Government.)

Originally, the project was set to cost $6.8 billion and be completed before the Victorian state election in 2022.

Now, however, the final cost is estimated at $10.2 billon and the project is expected to be delivered three years late in 2025.

To complete the work on the second of the twin tunnels, TBM Bella has operated non-stop over a fifteen-month period.

During that time, it has excavated enough soil to fill the Melbourne Cricket Group and has installed more than 15,000 individual concrete segments to create the tunnel walls.

TBM Bella will now be dismantled and removed piece by piece.

The 450-tonne cutterhead will be buried on site whilst other components will be either recycled or returned to the manufacturer.

Crews will now continue to build the road deck and install electrical, lighting and safety systems to prepare both tunnels for completion in 2025.

Above ground, work is underway to construct the ventilation system at the outbound portal and prepare for the installation of the iconic eel net structure.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews welcomed the latest development.

“We promised we’d build an alternative to the West Gate Bridge to keep our city moving, and we’re getting on with it – creating thousands of jobs and setting our booming western suburbs up for the future,” Andrews said.

“The West Gate Tunnel Project will slash travel times, take thousands of trucks off local roads, and get families home sooner and safer.”


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