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Hole lotta love: Rail tunnel taking shape as borer set to head beneath river

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One of two tunnel boring machines currently grinding away as part of the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project is soon set to head beneath the Brisbane River after creating more than 500 metres of concrete-sealed tunnel since beginning work in January.

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Else, the 1350 tonne machine named after pioneering female engineer Else Shephard, is close to its deepest point 58 metres below the Kangaroo Point cliffs on its way towards the Brisbane CBD.

Its sister TBM, Merle (named after feminist Merle Thornton) is 72 metres into its journey across the city, building the second of two 5.9 km tunnels for the project.

They are expected to break through to the new Albert St station by the middle of the year before emerging at the project’s Normanby portal, by which time they would have excavated 290,000 cubic metres of spoil.

What the TBMs look like. Image: CRR

Up to 15 workers operate the boring machines at any one time, part of a 2400 total workforce now engaged in the project across 11 separate sites.

The size and scale of the project is already causing major disruptions across the city, prompting the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority to produce an online map warning residents of where and when delays are likely.

Roadheaders have also begun excavating other tunnel sections between Woolloongabba and Boggo Rd.

As the boring machines move, they line the tunnel with pre-cast concrete segments trucked in from a manufacturing facility in Wacol. All up, the tunnels will eventually be lined with 25,000 segments.

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