Industry Infrastructure, Passenger Rail, Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand), Tunnelling

Autonomous TBMs drilling smoothly on Sydney tunnels

tbms sydney


Tunnel boring machines (TBMs) Betty and Dorothy are progressing well on their journey to carve out a section of the twin Sydney Metro West tunnels between Sydney Olympic Park and Westmead.

They have already built 865 metres and 300m, respectively, of fully lined tunnels since launching from the Clyde launch box.

The 1200-tonne machines are tunnelling approximately 180m a week and are expected to complete the first 4.5-kilometre leg of their journey and arrive at Sydney Olympic Park in mid-2024.

TBMs Dorothy and Betty have made history as the first autonomous borers to be used in Australia.

This work is part of the $2.16 billion Western Tunnelling Package awarded in February to the Gamuda Australia and Laing O’Rourke Consortium, which contracted world-leading manufacturer Herrenknecht to design, build and deliver the machines.

These two mega machines will utilise innovative artificial intelligence software, developed by Gamuda, to automatically steer, operate and monitor a number of TBM functions.

While an operator remains in control, the autonomous system takes on all repetitive tasks from the operator with greater accuracy. The technology also allows the TBMs to be more accurate and precise, reducing the time required to excavate the nine-kilometre tunnels, therefore saving project costs.

While these machines look the same as others used on Sydney Metro projects, this technology means exact tunnelling speed and force is used. This lessens the impact on the equipment which reduces the amount of down-time for maintenance.

TBM Dorothy has been named in honour of Dorothy Buckland-Fuller, who was an Australian human rights and founded the Australian Migrant Women’s Association.

TBM Betty was named after Olympic champion Betty Cuthbert, who attended Parramatta Home Science School (now Macarthur Girls High School).

On major tunnelling projects around the world, machines that work underground are traditionally given female names.


Image: Sydney Metro


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