Auckland's Waterview Connection project continues to progress with the construction teams halfway through turning around 'Alice', the giant Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) brought in from China.
In mid-February, the first stage of the tunneling project stopped for 10 weeks for the turnaround. After this point, the machine will be ready to complete the second – northbound – motorway tunnel. When the project restarts, Alice should reach the other end of the tunnel by next spring.
NZ Transport Agency's Highway Manager, Brett Gliddon, explained that the first section of Alice was turned around before Christmas. However, after digging out around 270 m of the second tunnel, there is enough room for the team to position all the gear inside the tunnel to complete the job.
Additionally, a temporary gantry has to be removed, turned and then reconnected to the cutter head. Mr Gliddon said this was a very 'delicate process'.
"Like the first stage of the turnaround, there are only centimetres to spare in the trench so it will be a very delicate and careful operation," he explained.
"Turning a TBM of this size has only been done a couple of times before, and we expect there will be a worldwide audience watching the turnaround of the remaining gantries. The team's already shown great skill and innovation, and we anticipate the operation will go smoothly."
The entire Waterview Connection Project is expected to be completed by early 2017 to traffic. However, before then, the construction and waterproofing of the twin tunnels will need to be finished as well as the interchange to connect the Southwestern and Northwestern Motorways.
It will be interesting to continue watching the progress of New Zealand's largest infrastructure project in many years. With some of the processes cutting-edge, many businesses across the globe will certainly be keeping a close eye on proceedings.