10 January 2018

The biggest tunnel boring machines (TBMs) in the southern hemisphere are on their way to Melbourne, with an order now placed for the two massive machines that will build the West Gate Tunnel.

They will be used to build Melbourne’s vital alternative to the West Gate Bridge and take trucks off residential streets in the inner west and put them underground.

The $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel Project will upgrade the West Gate Freeway and link it to the city and CityLink, with a new tunnel under Yarraville and bridges over the Maribyrnong River.

Construction on the project kicks off in the next few weeks, with works beginning at the site of the northern tunnel portal in Footscray, where the first TBM will be launched in early 2019.

After taking 12 months to build and test, the massive machines will churn day and night for nearly two years, at a rate of around 9 metres per day, until they emerge at the West Gate Freeway in Melbourne’s inner west.

The massive TBMs will stand 15.6 metres in diameter – as tall as a five-story building – and will be 90 metres long.

Weighing in at around 4,000 tonnes each, they are being purpose built to suit local ground conditions in Melbourne’s inner west.

Once in the ground, they will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to build 6.8 kilometres of tunnel between the Maribyrnong River and the West Gate Freeway.

The local community will have the opportunity to name the TBMs and follow their progress deep under Melbourne over the coming years.

The West Gate Tunnel Project will provide an estimated $11 billion boost to the Victorian economy, creating 6,000 new jobs, including 500 jobs for people entering the workforce, and up to 150 jobs for former auto workers.

Full media release

Find out more about construction in the Tunnels precinct

Infographic of a tunnel boring machine digging under the west of Melbourne