New milestone achieved for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail tunnel


A total of 25,000 concrete segments needed to line Cross River Rail’s twin tunnels. Image courtesy of Cross River Rail project.

The first of the two giant Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) excavating Brisbane’s Cross River Rail’s twin tunnels has now carved its way beneath the river, and is moving northwards under the CBD.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the successful under river crossing by TBM Else is a major milestone for this transformational project.

“Else is now tunnelling its way towards the new Albert Street station, while TBM Merle is making her own crossing to ensure the twin tunnels break through to Roma Street, then onto the Normanby portal by the end of the year,” she said.

“Not only is this project streamlining our public transport network, it is also a vital part of our economic recovery. […] It is putting more than $4 million a day into the economy and more than 2400 people have worked on the project since it started,” she added.

The Cross River Rail is a 10.2 kilometre rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills in Brisbane, which includes 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and CBD. The project will unlock a bottleneck at the core of Brisbane’s transport network and it will transform the way Queenslanders travel across the whole of South East Queensland.

“When trains start running to parts of the inner city in 2025, more than 7700 workers, including 450 trainees and apprentices can boast they had a hand in building the project which will re-define peoples journeys to parts of the inner city,” Premier Palaszczuk said.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey said Cross River Rail was creating 7, 700 jobs for Queensland.

“The big boring machines are tunnelling through up to 30 metres of hard rock a day with a crew of up to 15 people working on them at any one time,” he said.

“The TBMs are lining the tunnel walls as they go with 25,000 big precast concrete segments, weighing 4.2 tonnes each,” he added.

The Cross River Rail tunnel project is a key component of the Palaszczuk Government’s $56 billion infrastructure guarantee over the next four years to drive Queensland’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

Member for McConnel, Grace Grace said the project was delivering a huge economic boost to Queensland.

“Cross River Rail is injecting about $4.1 million into the economy every day, with more than 90 per cent of this flowing directly into Queensland businesses, at a time when they need it the most,” she said.

Grace said the exciting milestone of crossing under the river was also one of the most technically challenging parts for crews.

“As you could imagine, burrowing under the Brisbane River with two 1350-tonne mega machines has required extensive planning,” she said.

“Crews undertake probe drilling in front of the TBMs to determine the type of geology they will pass through, while special systems on the machines and the design of the tunnels themselves ensure this new river crossing will be watertight.”

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.

The mega machines are expected to continue below the Albert Street site before breaking through at Roma Street later in the year and then finally emerging at the project’s northern portal near Normanby by the end of the year.



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