Tunnel Boring Machines
Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) will be used to build the Metro Tunnel.
TBMs are large machines that tunnel through ground, progressively installing concrete linings to support the excavated tunnel. Excavated material is transported through the machine to the surface for removal by trucks.
TBMs are typically used in the construction of long underground tunnels. They are tailored for specific ground conditions and are more than 100 metres long and weigh up to 1,000 tonnes.
Metro Tunnel's TBMs will be built and tested overseas, before being disassembled and shipped to Melbourne in segments. When the TBMs arrive, the segments are transported from the Port of Melbourne to the St Kilda Road precinct and North Melbourne, where they are reassembled on site, ready to start tunnelling.
The Metro Tunnel TBMs will build tunnels approximately seven metres in diameter.
How do they work?
TBMs perform two main tasks:
- Excavating rock and soil with a rotating cutter head at the front of the machine before it is transported via a conveyor belt or pipes running through and behind the TBM.
- Progressively lining the tunnels with pre-cast concrete segments from within the TBM to support the ground and minimise groundwater seepage into the tunnel.
The Metro Tunnel can work more than 40 metres underground and will operate on a 24/7 basis.
At the start of the process, a deep launch shaft is dug from the surface to where the TBM needs to start tunnelling. The TBM is then lowered by crane into the shaft in sections and assembled before it begins excavating towards a station or tunnel entrance. It is then 'pulled' through an excavated station box to begin excavating the next section of tunnel, or extracted via a retrieval shaft and taken back to a launch shaft to start digging another section.
The TBM launch shaft for the western section of the project will be located at the North Melbourne Station site, with a TBM retrieval site in Kensington near the western tunnel entrance.
For the eastern section of the project, the TBM launch shaft will be located at the Anzac Station site on St Kilda Road and supported by a work site at Edmund Herring Oval. A TBM retrieval site will be located near the eastern tunnel entrance.
A range of activities need to take place around the TBM launch shafts to support tunnelling operations. These include site facilities, the processing and management of excavated material prior to disposal, as well as storage of the concrete segments used to line the tunnels.
The concrete segments will be manufactured at an off-site plant and then transported to North Melbourne and the St Kilda Road precinct.
For the western half of the project:
- Two TBMs will be launched at the site of the new North Melbourne Station and will travel towards Kensington.
- They will be retrieved at the western tunnel entrance and taken back to North Melbourne, where they will be relaunched to travel towards Parkville Station.
- When the TBMs arrive at Parkville they will be pulled through the excavated station box to continue their journey towards State Library Station.
- When they reach State Library Station, they will be recovered back through the tunnels to Parkville where they will be extracted.
For the eastern half of the project:
- Two TBMs will be launched at the site of Anzac Station and will travel towards South Yarra.
- They will be retrieved at the eastern tunnel entrance and taken back to the St Kilda Road precinct, where they will be relaunched to travel towards Town Hall Station.
- When they reach Town Hall Station, they will be recovered back through the tunnels to Anzac Station where they will be extracted.