Huge TBMs take shape for Melbourne’s big dig

A crane began lowing parts for the 4,000-tonne tunnel-boring machines into the Watsonia launch box on 14 March (Photograph courtesy of Webuild via X)
The Spark consortium has begun lowering parts of two tunnel-boring machines into place for Melbourne’s US$8.36bn North East Link transport megaproject.

In a few months, the TBMs will start digging the pair of 6.5km-long tunnels under the city to connect the M80 Ring Road to an upgraded Eastern Freeway.

The Victoria state government says it will let drivers skip 18 sets of traffic lights on a trip to the airport when it opens in 2028, and take 15,000 trucks off local roads.

Appointed in October 2021, the Spark consortium comprises Italy’s WeBuild, South Korea’s GS Engineering and Construction, Australia’s CPB Contractors – part of Cimic Group – China Construction Oceania, Cimic Group companies Ventia and Pacific Partnerships, along with Capella Capital, John Laing Investments and DIF.

It’s a public-private partnership scheme with Spark members financing, building, and running the tolled link for 25 years.

A 550-tonne gantry crane started lowering TBM parts into the launch box at Watsonia on 14 March.

Billed as the biggest TBMs currently in the Southern Hemisphere, each will weigh 4,000 tonnes, and be 90m long and some 15m wide.

They’ll burrow south toward Bulleen followed by crews installing tunnel walls made of around 44,000 concrete segments, manufactured locally in Benalla.

Federal MP for Jagajaga, Kate Thwaites, said: “More than 5,000 workers are already working across North East Link, the Eastern Freeway Upgrade and M80 Ring Road– with an incredible 12,000 jobs to be created over the life of the projects.”


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