Auckland’s Cross City Rail Link (CRL) 7.15m diameter Herrenknecht EPBM, Dame Whina Cooper, has reached the 500m mark on the first leg of its 1.6km long journey from Mt Eden into central Auckland.
“This is fabulous news for the project, and for Auckland too,” says City Rail Link’s Chief Executive, Dr Sean Sweeney. “It’s giving everyone a lift – there’ a lot of dedicated work behind this – and we’re telling Auckland we’re not going to be stopped by all the challenges the pandemic keeps throwing our way.” The TBM is currently below Symonds Street in Auckland’s uptown district. It is operated by CRL’s main contractor, the Link Alliance.
“Arriving at the 500m mark is an important target for tunnellers everywhere,” says Link Alliance Project Director, Francois Dudouit. “Getting there so soon after the level four lockdown ended is a great achievement and demonstrates the persistence and hard work of our teams above and below ground to get the tunnels built.”
Dame Whina Cooper began tunnelling CRL’s southbound tunnel in late May. During the five week-long covid lockdown, the TBM continued to operate, well below full capacity, to reduce the risk of becoming trapped by the pressure of the earth around it. “We were well prepared to ramp up our work once the lockdown ended,” Mr Dudouit says.
Covid-related health and safety protocols are observed while tunnelling continues at pace operating 24hours a day, 7 days a week. Teams are working 12-hour shifts – one team of 12 on the TBM and another 12 above ground, with many others supporting the operation.
Dame Whina Cooper will soon pass under the Auckland motorway network’s Spaghetti Junction on its path towards the next important destination – CRL’s Karangahape Station. Arrival there is planned for the end of the year. The final leg of the TBM’s first drive – Aotea Station in central Auckland – will be completed earlyin the new year. Dr Sweeney says the pandemic has impacted the tunnelling programme.
“Since March 2020, and not including Auckland’s latest ongoing level 3 alert, CRL has endured 205 days of lockdowns or restricted working conditions under levels 4, 3, 2.5 and 2. By anyone’s reckoning, 205 days is still an awful lot of disruption,” he says. “But very importantly, no-one at CRL has lost sight of how important the project is for Auckland and the big changes it will bring to the people who live and work here.”
The project ‘s total cost was estimated at the time with a funding envelope of $3.4bn. The revised cost envelope for completing the entire Auckland City Rail Link project now totals $4.419bn. The revised cost has been endorsed by the project’s sponsors (the Crown and Auckland Council).
A single Alliance is delivering the main CRL works – the stations and tunnels. The successful bidder was the Link Alliance (Vinci Construction Grands Projets S.A.S., Downer NZ Ltd, Soletanche Bachy International NZ Limited, WSP Opus (NZ) Limited, AECOM New Zealand Limited and Tonkin + Taylor Limited). City Rail Link and the Link Alliance negotiated a $75m Early Works Contract.