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Part of the Waterview Connection will be underground in two tunnels. These tunnels are being built using a tunnel boring machine.
Half of the new Waterview Connection motorway link will be underground. This tunnel is being constructed using a tunnel boring machine (TBM) called Alice which was built for this project.
A tunnel boring machine (TBM) is like a giant drill, except that it also builds as it drills. The TBM is drilling two holes, each big enough for a three lane motorway. It will travel north from Ōwairaka to Waterview to dig one tunnel, then turn around at Waterview and begin its journey back to Ōwairaka to build the second tunnel.
By digging the tunnel and taking the motorway underground for 2.4km, the roads, parks, rivers, houses and businesses above ground are saved. The tunnels will reach a depth of 45m below the surface to go under a layer of very hard volcanic rock formed a long time ago from a volcanic eruption in the area.
The front section of the TBM is called the shield. At the front of the shield is the cutting face, which is like a giant, round cheese grater. The shield has two jobs; it drills through the ground to make a large hole. It then lines this hole with concrete segments to form complete rings.
The TBM not only cuts the hole for the tunnel it also lines it with concrete and completes the process of making the tunnel.
Auckland school children were able to enter a naming competition for the TBM. 'Alice' from Alice in Wonderland was the winner by public vote. 'Alice' came from 9-year-old Branden Hall from Everglade Primary in Manukau. Branden chose Alice because just like Alice in Wonderland, the tunnel boring machine (TBM) would go through a tunnel (rabbit hole) and 'Wonderland' would be on the other side.
Meet Alice the Tunnel Boring Machine built especially for the Waterview Connection Project. Image: NZTA.
The tunnel is lined with two-metre wide concrete segments. Image: NZTA.
Looking down a completed section of the Waterview Tunnel. Image: NZTA.
This tunnel is for services. It will carry the key services like water, electricity and telecommunications under the new motorway.
Find out where else in the world tunnel boring machines are being used and the projects in which they are involved.