Dame Whina Cooper marches on

Auckland’s City Rail Link’s Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), Dame Whina Cooper, has reached the 500-metre mark on the first leg of its 1.6-kilometre-long underground journey from Mt Eden into central Auckland.  

City Rail Link Chief Executive Sean Sweeney said the milestone had “given everyone a lift”. 

“We’re telling Auckland we’re not going to be stopped by all the challenges the pandemic keeps throwing our way,” he said.     

The TBM is currently below Symonds Street in Auckland’s uptown district.  It is operated by CRL’s main contractor, the Link Alliance. 

Link Alliance Project Director, Francois Dudouit, said arriving at the 500-metre mark was an important target for tunnellers. 

“Getting there so soon after the level 4 lockdown ended is a great achievement and demonstrates the persistence and hard work of our teams above and below ground to get the tunnels built,” he said.  

Dame Whina Cooper began tunnelling CRL’s southbound tunnel in late May.  During the five week-long COVID lockdown, the TBM continued to operate, well below full capacity, to reduce the risk of becoming trapped by the pressure of the earth around it.  

“We were well prepared to ramp up our work once the lockdown ended,” Dudouit said. 

COVID-related health and safety protocols are observed while tunnelling continues at pace operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Teams are working 12-hour shifts – one team of 12 on the TBM and another 12 above ground, with many others supporting the operation. 

Dame Whina Cooper will soon pass under the Auckland motorway network’s Spaghetti Junction on its path towards the next important destination – CRL’s Karangahape Station.  Arrival there is planned for the end of the year.  

The final leg of the TBM’s first drive – Aotea Station in central Auckland – will be completed early in the new year.  

Sweeney said the pandemic had impacted the tunnelling program. 

“Since March 2020, and not including Auckland’s latest ongoing level 3 alert, CRL has endured 205 days of lockdowns or restricted working conditions under levels 4, 3, 2.5 and 2. By anyone’s reckoning, 205 days is still an awful lot of disruption,” he said.   

“But very importantly, no-one at CRL has lost sight of how significant the project is for Auckland and the big changes it will bring to the people who live and work here.”   

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Dame Whina’s journey begins

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