Cross River Rail’s mega machine arriving at the Gabba

A mammoth logistical operation is underway to get the first of Cross River Rail’s two huge Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) from one side of the city to the other to start digging under the Brisbane River and CBD.

Months of planning has gone into transporting the 1350-tonne TBM from Herrenknecht’s northside facility to Woolloongabba in preparation for launch.

Getting a 165-metre long mega machine that weighs the same as four Boeing 747s from one side of Brisbane to the other safely and efficiently is no simple task.

It will take more than 40 truck deliveries, with many of those requiring police escorts and spotters along the 25-kilometre route to move huge sections in the middle of the night.

Some key components of the disassembled TBM have already arrived on site, including the 216-tonne gripper shield and the 196-tonne front shield – these two pieces alone weigh as much as nearly 70 African elephants.

The front shield houses the cutterhead, which will cut through the rock, and the gripper shield puts pressure on the side of the tunnels and uses hydraulic jacks to push the shield forward against the rock.

After the remaining pieces reach site over the next month, the TBM will be assembled and ready to launch early next year.

Cross River Rail’s second TBM is expected to start arriving at the Woolloongabba site in sections early next year.

The TBMs will each tunnel under the Brisbane River to Albert Street station in mid-2021, continue to the Roma Street station and finally emerge at the project’s northern portal at Normanby.

At the same time as they’re making their way through hard rock, the TBMs will install 25,000 massive precast concrete segments, weighing 4.2 tonnes each, to line the tunnels.


Tunnel Boring Machine fast facts:

  • Each TBM weighs 1350 tonnes and is 165 metres long;
  • After undergoing factory acceptance testing at Herrenknecht’s northside facility, they are disassembled and transported 25 kilometres to Cross River Rail’s Woolloongabba site;
  • More than 40 truck movements are required to transport each TBM between site in parts;
  • The TBMs will then be reassembled on site in preparation for launch in early 2021;
  • A crew of up to 15 people will work in a TBM at any one time;
  • TBMs will work at a rate of 20 to 30 metres per day;
  • The TBMs will install 25,000 concrete segments weighing 4.2 tonnes each along the tunnel walls as they go;
  • At their deepest point the tunnels will be 58m below the surface at Kangaroo Point, and 42m below the Brisbane River;
  • Each TBM is fully equipped with crew facilities, offices and toilets;
  • The TBMs will generate 290,000 cubic metres of spoil as they make way for the twin Cross River Rail tunnels.