TBM handed over for work on Auckland CRL

The City Rail Link (CRL) project in Auckland, New Zealand, has officially accepted ownership of its tunnel boring machine (TBM).

The machine has been assembled in Guangzhou, China and after a number of tests is ready to be shipped to New Zealand, said Francois Dudouit, project director for CRL’s tunnels and stations delivery consortium Link Alliance.

“The TBM successfully underwent more than 500 tests to make sure everything works as it should. There is now great excitement that we are ready for the next step – to bring the TBM to Auckland.”

The TBM has been designed to meet the unique challenges of tunnelling under Auckland, where it will dig the tunnels, transport the excavated spoil, and install the concrete panels that will line the tunnels.

“It is a unique, world class machine – an underground factory – purpose built to carve its way through Auckland’s sticky soil,” said Dudouit. “Just about everything that moves was tested to make sure it can do the transformational job it’s been designed for.”

While the CRL project has been slightly hampered by restrictions on travel for key personnel, and the delivery of the TBM was delayed due to the factory closing in China, the successful handing over of the TBM demonstrates that the project can continue during COVID-19, said Sean Sweeney, chief executive of CRL.

“The successful factory assessment tests and the handover of the TBM to the Link Alliance is a very clear and strong indication that the CRL project can meet critical milestones in a Covid-19 world.”

The TBM will carve out the twin, 1.6km-long tunnels between Mt Eden and central Auckland where it will connect with tunnels from Britomart. Delivery is expected in October and it will begin tunnelling in April. Each tunnel is expected to take nine months to complete.

The TBM will be named in honour of Māori rights champion Dame Whina Cooper.

CRL

CRL stepping-up after COVID-19 lockdown

Construction sites in central Auckland will be working double shifts to complete the City Rail Link (CRL) as quick as possible.

From Monday, May 18, working hours at the Mt Eden and Karangahape will be extended to up to 16 hours per day, from 7am to 10pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 7pm on Saturday.

Although essential back-office work was able to be completed while New Zealand’s level 4 restrictions prohibited site access, CRL chief executive Sean Sweeney said that the project has changed.

“I think we have come out of the lockdown pretty well – apparently faster than most projects – but one thing is certain, COVID-19’s legacy means CRL is now going to be a very different project than it was two months ago.”

The scale of the project, as the largest transport infrastructure project ever undertaken in New Zealand, has meant that the full restart of the project has a wider impact on the economy.

“This project plays a key role in the economic recovery post-COVID-19. The scale of CRL means there is so much we can do right now and into the future to create much needed jobs and to help get the economy pumping again,” said Sweeney.

“Operating two shifts on a site means more people working and more money in their pockets to go and spend locally.”

Currently, 40 key workers are stuck overseas and have been unable to travel to New Zealand, however the project is seeking to be classified as an essential service to enable the workers to come to New Zealand.

“If we able to persuade the Government to support our request, those CRL workers overseas together with their skills should find it easier to get to New Zealand,” said Sweeney.

While the project remains on track, some other delays have been caused by the arrival of the boring machine pushed back until late 2020, with tunnelling to begin in early 2021. The lockdown’s full effect on costs and project timings is being investigated.

“That work will take several months, and the outcome will depend on the health of the economy, how our suppliers here at home and overseas are faring, and on international efforts to curb COVID-19,” said Sweeney. “CRL is important for Auckland’s future and the measures announced today are an important first step to keep to our timetable and to our budget.”

Community getting involved in shaping rail projects

Community members are having their say in the identity of rail projects around Australasia.

In New Zealand, City Rail Link has announced that its tunnel boring machine (TBM) will be named after Dame Whina Cooper, who campaigned for social justice and land rights for Māori in New Zealand. Chief executive of City Rail Link Ltd Sean Sweeney welcomed the choice.

“We were looking for the name of a New Zealand woman who inspired – brave, compassionate and fearless – and all those outstanding leadership qualities are well and truly represented by the very remarkable Dame Whina Cooper.”

Dame Whina Cooper was one of three women who were shortlisted to inspire the name of the TBM and the final decision was made by a poll that attracted 3,500 votes. The two other women who were nominated were Margaret Bradshaw, an Antarctic scientist, and the world’s first elected openly transgender Mayor and Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer.

“I am grateful to all New Zealanders for their support and their nominations and votes, particularly at a time when we were all grappling with a pandemic. I would also like to thank Dr Bradshaw and Ms Beyer for allowing their names to be considered for our TBM,” said Sweeney.

The TBM will arrive on site in October, and will be reassembled at the Link Alliance project site at Mt Eden. The TBM will excavate two 1.6km tunnels from Mt Eden to Aotea Station.

In Western Australia, over 2,400 community members were involved in the future of Cockburn Central Station Tower.

After the removal of the controversial Cockburn Faces artwork in October 2019, the Cockburn community was asked to select a new use of the tower. Options included a new artwork, clock, digital screen, or the return of the faces.

After a month-long survey, 43 per cent opted for a new piece of artwork, and 37 per cent preferred an analogue clock.

“The community has spoken and, with almost half of the votes going for new artwork, our attention will now turn towards selecting an appropriate piece for the tower,” said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

The WA Public Transport Authority will release a tender for the new artwork for a local WA artist in the coming months. Jandakot MLA Yaz Mubarakai said the site is significant for the local community.

“Thousands of motorists and train commuters see the Cockburn Tower every day so it’s important they’ve been able to have their say and the most popular option has been selected.”

Work resumes on all CRL sites

Construction on the City Rail Link (CRL) in Auckland has resumed.

On-site activity was temporarily halted for five weeks during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown in New Zealand, however all six CRL sites are now operating. These sites are located in the middle of the Auckland CBD at Britomart, Albert Street, Karangahape, and Mt Eden, as well as at Ōtāhuhu.

Although construction may have been halted, off-site work could continue, enabling what CRL Ltd chief executive Sean Sweeney called a “strong and safe” return to construction.

“The prep work completed at our sites during the past week together with planning and design work done from home by our backroom teams during the lockdown will all contribute to a successful return to work.”

Other rail projects across New Zealand have also resumed, with KiwiRail workers returning to sites including the Kaikōura rebuild and the Wellington metro upgrades. Transport Minister Phil Twyford acknowledged the efforts of the rail and construction sectors.

“I’d like to thank the industry, Waka Kotahi, City Rail Link Ltd and KiwiRail for their efforts which will see well over 1,000 construction workers back on the job this week. For example, the Kaikōura rebuild will see around 450 road and rail workers back to work, City Rail Link expects 400 workers back this week, and Transmission Gully and Pūhoi to Warkworth will ramp back up to hundreds of workers at each.”

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said works would soften the economic impact of COVID-19.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is and getting people back to work day one of Alert Level 3 so we can get money into the pockets of businesses and workers sooner.”

At CRL sites 200 workers are on site on the first day, Tuesday, April 28, and numbers will go up to 400 by the end of the week.

“Our priority is the safety of our construction teams and the wider community.  At morning start-up and toolbox meetings workers will be briefed about stringent new health and safety protocols before they make a successful start to their shifts. Those rules cover things like access to sites, safety and protection for themselves and their workmates, and sanitation and cleaning regimes. We’ll be applying the protocols diligently,” said Sweeney.

Rail has been targeted as a way for the New Zealand economy to recover after the lockdown, with multiple projects put forward by local governments and the NZ Greens pushing for further work on the country’s regional rail system. According to Sweeney, CRL has a role to play in this.

“Given the project’s size and the contribution it can make, getting back to work quickly will be a significant and important contribution to the revival of the New Zealand economy.”

Similar to other projects in Australia, CRL is looking to take advantage of lower traffic levels to get ahead of schedule.

“It is our priority to keep the community, and relevant organisation and stakeholders informed if there are any changes,” said Sweeney.

NZ City Rail Link ready to re-start construction

The New Zealand government has approved Auckland’s $4.45 billion City Rail Link (CRL) to resume construction after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Sean Sweeney, CEO of New Zealand’s biggest infrastructure project said his team is champing at the bit for a rapid re-start.

“We’re already inspecting all CRL sites and making them ready for a safe return to work next week,” he said.

Work will resume on Tuesday, April 28 at all CRL sites including the C1 contract at Britomart and LowerQueen Street, C2 in Albert Street, C3 at Aotea in central Auckland, Karangahape Road and at MtEden, and C8 on the southern rail line at Ōtāhuhu.

“Because of our size we’re aware of the big role we have in quickly getting the economy moving again, supporting the contracting and infrastructure industries and seeing our workers safely back on the job,” Sweeney said.

He said the paramount priority will be keeping workers and the wider community safe.

“We had some pretty strict safety measures in place before the lockdown, but next Tuesday’s return to work will be different,” he said.

Sweeny said there will be additional constraints including restricted access to sites, physical distancing, protective clothing and sanitising and cleaning regimes.

“They will all contribute to a successful re-start in the new COVID-19 work environment, and, just as importantly, they will help ensure our workers get home to family and friends virus-free when they finish their shifts,” he said.

Sweeney said it is too early to measure if COVID-19 has impacted on project costs or construction timetables.

“It may be months before we know that once the economy has settled down a bit and we have a clearer picture on the availability of workers, and what sort of shape some of our suppliers both here and overseas are in,” he said.

“I know we have a small team of workers waiting in France because there are no flights here at the moment – that’s not a lockdown issue that‘s a wider international COVID-19 issue.

“A big plus for the project was ability of City Rail Link Ltd (CRL Ltd) and our Link Alliance contractors to be able to keep working on construction and design programmes during the lockdown – time wasn’t wasted and that’s been a big boost for our re-start.”

The project team is investigating opportunities to accelerate some work, including more shifts of work and the use of extra plant and machinery.

“Those ‘shovel ready’ ideas are still in the planning stages but our contractors will be working hard – and safely – to get CRL delivered as quickly as possible for Auckland,” Sweeney said.

Phil Goff, Auckland Mayor, has welcomed the government’s announcement to resume construction and CRL’s re-start news.

“As one of Auckland – and New Zealand’s – biggest and most important infrastructure projects, the City Rail Link will play an important role in the post-COVID-19 economic stimulus,”Goff said.

“It’s critical that CRL construction resumes quickly to help kick start the economy, get construction and infrastructure industry employees back into work and limit as much as is possible the lockdown’s impact on construction timeframes.”

In the meantime, City Rail Link is in the search for an inspiring woman’s name for the project’s Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM).

The TBM is due to arrive from China later this year in sections and reassembled at the Link Alliance construction site in Mt Eden.

The Link Alliance will start tunnelling with the newly named TBM early next year, excavating 1.6 kilometres from Mt Eden to the Aotea Station in central Auckland to connect with the tunnels already constructed from the Britomart Station.

“Tunnelling tradition dictates a TBM cannot start work until it has been given a female name, a sign of good luck and safety for the project ahead. Our search seeks to recognise the many amazing women New Zealand has produced,” Sweeney said.

Shortlisted names include Antarctic scientist Dr Margaret Hayward, transgender politician Georgina Beyer, and Maori welfare and lands champion Dame Whina Cooper.

First sod turned on Mt Eden site for Auckland CRL

A supplier has been chosen for the tunnel boring machine for New Zealand’s City Rail Link project, as a ground-breaking ceremony begins construction at the southern tunnel portal.

Herrenknecht will supply and build the $13.5 million tunnel boring machine, which will be shipped from its manufacturing site in China later in 2020 to be reassembled at the Mt Eden portal. Tunnelling will begin in February 2021.

The portal at Mt Eden will allow tunnelling to continue to central Auckland, and will open up land in the immediate vicinity for development, said NZ Transport Minister Phil Twyford.

“Not only will CRL boost Auckland’s transport system, it will stimulate urban regeneration with jobs and affordable housing around Mt Eden station and elsewhere along the city’s rail corridors – a completed CRL will double the number of the number of people within 30 minutes of central Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest employment hub,” he said.

According to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff the transport project will increase the use of rail in New Zealand’s largest city.

“The CRL will be a gamechanger for Auckland, allowing 54,000 people an hour to travel into the city at peak times. It adds capacity equivalent to three Harbour Bridges or 16 extra traffic lanes into the city at peak. The TBM will be the star of the show, providing the mechanical muscle required to get the job done as quickly as possible,” he said.

City Rail Link chief executive Sean Sweeney said that the breaking of ground in Mt Eden comes 12 months on from the collapse of rail track, signalling, overhead lines, control system rooms, communications and building works provider RCR Tomlison went into administration. RCR Tomlison’s NZ subsidiary was in partnership with WSP Opus at the time.

“Far from a setback, that collapse was the catalyst for big and rapid change inside the project and we are now celebrating the benefit of those changes – a CRL team that includes the best expertise from New Zealand and overseas that’s ready to deliver the next big step of an outstanding project for Aucklanders.”

As part of the works, the public will be able to name the tunnel boring machine, with the condition that the name be one of a prominent NZ woman.