Cross River Rail’s TBM Merle finishes its journey beneath the Brisbane River and CBD


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Queensland’s biggest ever infrastructure project has reached a massive milestone with the final mega machine breaking through at the Northern Portal near the ICB marking the end of tunnelling for the transformational project.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Member for McConnell Minister Grace Grace watched on as Cross River Rail’s Tunnel Boring Machine Merle finished its journey beneath the Brisbane River and CBD – with one last breakthrough near Bowen Bridge Road.

“To see both tunnels now complete is a feat of engineering and a credit to all those who have worked tirelessly to deliver these tunnels ahead of schedule,” the Premier said.

“In a massive project full of huge milestones, today’s breakthrough is the biggest one yet.”

The Premier said the $5.4 billion mega project which is being funded and delivered by her government has powered on through COVID making it a critical part of the state’s economic recovery plan.

“Cross River Rail is pumping more than $4 million a day into our economy and driving our economic recovery with around 2,600 people currently working on it and 7,700 jobs supported over the life of the project,” the Premier said.

“It also underpinned our success with the International Olympics Committee and our successful Brisbane 2032 bid.

“It was a selling point to the IOC that our Olympics venues will be connected by fast and reliable rail transport.

“Cross River Rail will transform travel in South East Queensland meaning less cars on the road, faster journeys, more stations in more convenient locations and the capacity to increase train services on every line as our population grows.

“I look forward to the next phase of the project next year with attention turning to tracks being laid and building new underground stations.

“Queensland’s golden age is well and truly on track.”

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said today’s milestone was made possible by the hundreds of people working directly on tunnelling, as well as the thousands of people helping to bring Queensland’s biggest infrastructure project to life across the wider workforce.

“At the peak of tunnelling, more than 450 people were working on Cross River Rail’s twin tunnels, while 80 tunnel workers were able to complete an apprenticeship or traineeship over the past year,” Mr Miles said.

“I congratulate everyone involved on this momentous milestone. Now that tunnelling is complete, there is still plenty of work to do over the next couple of years.

“At the heart of this project are two 5.9 kilometre twin tunnels below the Brisbane River and CBD, which will be home to four underground stations, Albert Street, Roma Street, Woolloongabba and Boggo Road.

“These stations will be in more convenient locations, including at Albert Street in the heart of the city – the CBD’s first new station in more than a century.

“Each of these stations is the equivalent of four, eight-story buildings constructed entirely underground which is no small feat by any means.”

Education Minister and Member for McConnell Grace Grace congratulated everyone involved on this incredible milestone and credited Merle and Else for making history again.

“The two Tunnel Boring Machines are named after two incredible Queensland women – Merle Thornton and Else Shepherd,” Ms Grace said.

“Merle Thornton is an advocate for women’s rights, best known for chaining herself to the men only public bar at the Regatta Hotel back in 1965.

“Like Merle, Else Shepard shattered the glass ceiling and was one of the first women to graduate with an Electrical Engineering degree in Queensland.

“These two women made history, just like we are today with this major milestone.”

Cross River Rail tunnelling fast facts:

  • TBM Merle has broken through at Cross River Rail’s northern portal, having excavated 3.8km of tunnel since launching from Woolloongabba in early 2021.
  • The project’s other TBM – Else – completed tunnelling in late November.
  • TBMs excavate the bulk (3.8km) of Cross River Rail’s 5.9km twin tunnels, with the rest excavated by roadheaders.
  • The TBMs have excavated 310,000 cubic metres of spoil and installed approximately 27,000 concrete segments to line the tunnel’s walls, each weighing about 4.2 tonnes.
  • At their deepest point, the TBMs tunnelled 58 metres below the surface of Kangaroo Point, and 42 metres below the Brisbane River.
  • Each TBM weighs 1,350 tonnes and is 165 metres long.
  • A crew of up to 15 people work in a TBM at any one time.
  • TBMs work at a rate of 20 to 30 metres a day.
  • Roadheaders excavated 85,000 cubic metres of spoil while tunnelling almost 900 metres from Woolloongabba to Boggo Road.
  • The roadheaders are 22-metres long and weigh 115-tonnes.


View the Media Release here

© The State of Queensland 1997–2022 (Department of the Premier and Cabinet)

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