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It was a historic moment that passed Sydney by.
Without any public fanfare, a giant tunnel boring machine named Kathleen has completed digging the first rail tunnel under Sydney Harbour for a new metro train line.
The tunnel boring machine has been barged back to Barangaroo, where an underground station is being built.CREDIT:WOLTER PEETERS
So unremarked has been the occasion that Kathleen has already been pulled to the surface up a deep shaft on the harbour's edge at Blues Point, on the lower north shore, and barged back to where she began her journey at Barangaroo, on the western edge of the CBD.
In the coming weeks, the 130-metre boring machine will start on the second parallel tunnel.
The twin kilometre-long tunnels under the harbour are one of the most complex parts of the second stage of Sydney's metro rail line from Chatswood to central Sydney, and onto Bankstown. The first stage from Rouse Hill in Sydney's north-west to Chatswood opened in May.
Sydney transport planner Mathew Hounsell said the use of a specialised tunnel boring machine to bore under the harbour was a "very significant" engineering achievement.
Tunnel boring machine Kathleen being assembled at the site of the new Barangaroo metro station before she started tunnelling under the harbour.
"It is a significant milestone in Australian history. It demonstrates that we are capable of delivering major infrastructure projects like other countries - but it is not a world beater," he said.
He cited the 57-kilometre Gotthard tunnel under the Swiss Alps – the world's longest and deepest rail tunnel, which opened in 2016 – as an example of an extraordinary engineering feat.
Named after Kathleen Butler, who served as a technical adviser to renowned engineer John Bradfield on the construction of the Harbour Bridge, the boring machine is specially equipped to tunnel through water-saturated sandstone and sediment.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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