The first of four giant boring machines has commenced work on Sydney’s long-awaited North West Link.
Tunnelling work has commenced on the $8.3 billion North West Link in Sydney, as the NSW government strives to make good on its promise to bring Australia's biggest transportation project to fruition more than a decade after it was first proposed.
The first tunnel boring machine, which goes by the moniker of "Elizabeth," was sent off by NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Transport Gladys Berejlklian in the north-west Sydney suburb of Bella Vista on Monday.
Elizabeth will eventually be joined by three other giant tunnel borers on a landmark subterranean journey to excavate Australia's longest set of railway tunnels. The prodigious tunnelling device measures 120 metres long - nearly equal to the combined length of two A380 super-jumbo jets, and was constructed on site at Bella Vista over the past two months.
Baird hailed the launch of the enormous vehicle as firm proof of the NSW government's commitment to completing the project on schedule.
"The NSW Liberals and Nationals came to government promising the first of the four massive North West Rail Link tunnel boring machines would be in the ground before the end of 2014 and we've delivered - four months early," said Baird. "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."
Berejiklian said that the next two tunnel boring machines would also be in the ground before the end of the year, and that the set of four devices would support a total of 900 new jobs as part of the $1.15 billion tunnelling contract awarded in June 2013.
The North West Rail Link that the machines help excavate will provide a heavy rail connection to Sydney's north-western suburbs, forming a part of the city's new fully automated rapid transit network. The link will be 37 kilometres in total upon its completion in 2019, consisting of 23 kilometres of greenfield tracks and 14 kilometres of upgrades.