North West Rail Link powers ahead with all four tunnel boring machines now digging

Feb 16, 2015

Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian today announced the fourth massive North West Rail Link tunnel boring machine has started digging and has been named ‘Maria’, after 19th century Aboriginal rights advocate Maria Lock.

On major tunnelling projects around the world, underground workers look to Saint Barbara for protection and, because of that, machines that work underground are traditionally given female names.Ms Berejiklian said this is a significant milestone on the North West Rail Link – a centrepiece of the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government’s record infrastructure spend that will transform Sydney for generations to come."All four of our mega tunnelling machines are now in the ground as we get on with the job of delivering this critical $8.3 billion investment in public transport as quickly as possible," Ms Berejiklian said."The North West Rail Link is the first transport project in Australian construction history to use four Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs)".

"After starting four months early in September last year, tunnelling is now well underway as we deliver Australia’s longest railway tunnels – twin 15 kilometre tunnels from Bella Vista to Epping."The North West Rail Link is currently ahead of schedule as we work towards rapid transit rail services starting in the first half of 2019 with a train every four minutes for customers in the peak.This Government’s vision for a brand new rapid transit rail system for Sydney is well and truly coming to fruition."Labor announced and re-announced this project for more than a decade – without providing the funds or political will to get things started. The Liberals & Nationals Government started the North West Rail Link from scratch and now it’s all systems go."If we receive a mandate next March, the Rapid Transit network will be extended right across our great city, travelling under the CBD and west to Bankstown, giving public transport customers access to fast, reliable and modern turn-up-and-go services.”

So far, more than 278,000 tonnes of crushed rock has been excavated by the first three TBMs, as they make significant progress:

  • TBM1 Elizabeth, named after colonial pioneer Elizabeth Rouse: has dug morethan 1.8 kilometre of tunnel so far from Bella Vista;
  • TBM2 Florence, named after Australia’s first female architect and engineerFlorence Mary Taylor: more than 710 metres from Bella Vista;
  • TBM3, Isabelle, named after Isabelle Andersen, aged four, to represent all thetunnel builders: more than 150 metres from Cherrybrook.

Along with TBM3 Isabelle, TBM4 Maria will dig six kilometres from Cherrybrook to Epping. She will dig an average of 120 metres a week, mostly through Sydney sandstone and shale. The progress of all the North West Rail Link TBMs can be tracked on the project website:

Tunnel Boring Machine Maria
  • TBM Maria, weighing 900 tonnes, was delivered to the Cherrybrook site in 18shipping containers and 27 large pieces and was assembled by a crew of morethan 70 workers.
  • Three of the TBMs, including Maria, have been named in public competitionsunder the theme: Women who have made a positive contribution to life in Sydney.
  • Maria Lock (c.1805-1878) was an Aboriginal landowner born near Richmondand the daughter of Yarramundi, Chief of the Richmond Tribes.
  • The family belonged to the Boorooberongal clan of the Dharug people.
  • In late 1814, Yarramundi's clan attended the inaugural annual conferencehosted for Aborigines by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. At this time, Maria wasadmitted to the Native Institution, for tuition by William and Elizabeth Shelley.
  • In 1819, Maria is said to have won first prize in the annual school exam aheadof 20 children from the Native Institution and 100 European students.
  • In 1824 Maria married Robert Lock (1800-1854), a convict carpenter. Themarriage was the first officially sanctioned union between a convict and anAboriginal woman.
  • At a time when women were not a political force and Aboriginal women evenless so, Maria petitioned Governor Darling for her brother’s land entitlementsand was the first female Aboriginal to be given a land grant, at Liverpool. Theprocess took almost 20 years.
  • Her grandson Jerome Lock served in World War 1 and is believed to beAustralia's first Aboriginal Soldier.

Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography (Australian National University) and Hawkesbury District Health Service.


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