First of Brisbane Cross River Rail’s twin tunnels complete

Inside TBM Else. Image: Cross River Rail.

The first of Brisbane’s Cross River Rail’s Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) has seen the daylight, for the first time in ten months.

TMB Else has emerged at Cross River Rail’s Northern Portal after excavating 155,000 cubic metres of tunnel, the equivalent of 62 Olympic swimming pools.

Cross River Rail’s second mega machine – TBM Merle – will also breakthrough in coming weeks, marking an end to the project’s ‘year of tunnelling.’

The two 1350-tonne TBMs have been excavating 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and Brisbane CBD, as part of the new 10.2 kilometre rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk praised the progress made on the transformational $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project.

“This project was integral in delivering us the 2032 Olympic Games,” the Premier said.

“At the centre of this project is 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane CBD. To have one of two tunnels already complete is a great coup,” she added.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the significance of the 1350-tonne TBM Else’s breakthrough at the project’s northern portal today could not be understated.

“To have one of the TBMs finish its journey today is a massive milestone,” Mr Miles said.

“TBM Else has tunnelled 3.8 kilometres from Woolloongabba, under the Brisbane River to Albert Street and then onto Roma Street to emerge here at Cross River Rail’s Northern Portal.

“By unlocking the congested inner city rail network, Cross River Rail will transform how we travel throughout South Eastern Queensland.

“This tunnel will service new stations being built in more convenient locations, including the Brisbane CBD’s first new station in more than a century. It will mean quicker journeys and help ease congestion on our roads.”

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the milestone marked the end of the tunnelling for TBM Else – named after trailblazing engineer Professor Else Shepherd AM.

“The TBMs have been an iconic part of this project, and today we acknowledge and congratulate the crews who made TBM Else’s journey below the Brisbane River and CBD a success,” Mr Bailey said.

“TBM Else will be disassembled and then lifted out of the northern portal piece-by-piece by the same 280-tonne gantry crane that lowered her into the Woolloongabba station box.”

Education Minister and Member for McConnel Grace Grace said the project’s northern portal at Normanby was an impressive work site in its own right, with 40 workers making sure it was ready for the arrival of the project’s two mega machines.

“Crews have been working 24/7 to finish excavating the 12-metre-deep TBM extraction box, while also building the portal structure itself,” Ms Grace said.

“All up, 240 pre-cast roof components, each 18 metres wide and weighing almost 26 tonnes will be installed on site, which is where trains will enter and exit the twin tunnels when Cross River Rail is operational.”

Mr Miles said the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project was an important part of Queensland’s future, with the state’s population continuing to grow rapidly.

“Pumping more than $4 million a day into the economy, this critical project is helping drive Queensland’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and was key to securing the 2032 Olympics,” he said.

“With 88 per cent of net interstate migration heading to Queensland in coming years, the next decade is about growth, and Games, and both will drive public transport demand.”

Cross River Rail’s twin tunnels will be the first rail crossing for the Brisbane River since the Merivale Bridge opened in 1978. The two TBMs are named in honour of two ground-breaking Queensland women – trailblazing engineer Else Shepherd AM and pioneering feminist Merle Thornton AM. Each TBM weighs 1350 tonnes and is 165 metres long.

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