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Preparations for tunnelling get underway as North East Link project approaches final stages

The two largest tunnel boring machines in the Southern Hemisphere are being brought to north-east Melbourne to finalise the major road project

Across Melbourne’s north-east, preparations have begun in assembling two of the biggest tunnel boring machines in the Southern Hemisphere as the North East Link project approaches its final stages.

Arriving at the Watsonia site, the final piece for the TBM, a 137-tonne screw conveyor, will dig the 6.5-kilometre road tunnels that will ultimately help remove 15,000 trucks off local roads.

Once assembled, the TBMs will dig up to 15 metres per day as they travel from Watsonia to Bulleen, passing deep underneath traffic instead of going through local suburbs.

According to Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan, no time is being wasted on the final stages of the project, with worksites being set up along the Eastern Freeway and M80 Ring Road as well as large areas of open space that will be needed to upgrade the freeways in order to connect them with the North East Link tunnels.

Speed restrictions and barriers have already been rolled out between Burke and Bulleen Roads, which will also extend to Tram Road in the coming months.

“We’re not wasting a minute delivering this vital project that will get 15,000 trucks off local roads and slash travel times by 35 minutes,” Allan says.

“Whether it’s level crossing removals, building the Metro Tunnel or North East Link, we’re delivering the transport connections a growing Victoria needs.”

The infrastructure project has also generated the employment of 5,000 construction workers. Before completion in 2028, it is predicted that another 12,000 jobs will be created which will bring a welcome and well-needed boost to the economy.

Federal transport and infrastructure minister Catherine King echoes the importance of this next stage and the legacy the project will leave.

“Not only is this incredible infrastructure project employing thousands during construction, it will leave a lasting legacy for road users and for Victoria well into the future,” King says.

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