The 900 tonne tunnel boring machine (TBM) was christened “÷Maria’ after the 19th century Aboriginal rights advocate, Maria Lock.
The North West Rail Link is the first transport project in Australia to utilise four TBMs. The machines will have completed two 15 km tunnels from Bella Vista to Epping once the project is complete.
Construction of the project began in September 2014, four months earlier than anticipated. Once finished, the tunnels will be the longest railway tunnels in the country.
According to Transport NSW, the North West Rail Link is presently ahead of schedule, with train services due to commence in the first half of 2019.
More than 278,000 tonnes of crushed rock has been dug by the first three TBMs. From the Bella Vista end, the machines “÷Elizabeth’ and “÷Florence’ have tunnelled 1.8 km and 710 m respectively.
From the Cherrybrook end the TBM “÷Isabelle’ has tunnelled more than 150 m already.
Joining “÷Isabelle’ at the Cherrybrook end, “÷Maria’ will dig 6 km at an average speed of 120 m per week, encountering mostly sandstone and shale.