The massive tunnel boring machine that will be used to dig the tunnels at Waterview has been officially handed over to the companies working on the project. When looking at pictures, it can be hard to realise just how big this thing will be. The machine is enormous, with the cutting head measuring 14.5m wide and the entire machine just under 100m in length. The NZTA say it is the 10th largest of its kind every built. I’m hoping that we well get a chance to have a look at it up close before it starts eating its way underground.

You can read more about it in the NZTAs press release.

And another image of it

I know that many people that read this blog aren’t supportive of new motorways however I do like the project. I can see the new connection being very useful for a lot of people. Perhaps more importantly I hope that long term it represents the final major motorway project in the city, after which we can properly focus all of our efforts on improving alternative options.

I know some have also questioned if the TBM can be used for other projects, like the CRL. The answer to that is no. After a project these machines are normally worn out. Also the Herald reports this morning that the NZTA have sold the machine back to the manufacturer after the project for 20% of its purchase price of ~$50m and they will reuse some of the parts. There is another factor too, this machine is much larger than what we need for the CRL where the TBMs are proposed to be around 7m in diameter. Even digging two tunnels, like what is proposed for the CRL, it would likely be much cheaper than than using one giant one due to there being less than half the amount of rock to have to deal with. The image below shows the surface area of the Waterview TBM in blue with the proposed the CRL tunnels in grey.

CRL TBM vs Waterview TBM

And finally, if you don’t know how these machines work, here is a video

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  1. I agree with you Matt about the project, completing the western ring route will benefit the city substantially, and with this probably being the last major
    project for Auckland City, money can be used for more PT projects

    1. I agree too. In my mind Waterview is probably being delivered 10 years too soon, but in the context of a growing city that’s probably a minor detail in the long run.

  2. 10 years ago Auckland had a really disjointed motorway network. SH20 went from nowhere to nowhere as did SH18. Spaghetti junction still wasn’t finished.

    It’s good to see that money was spent completing the missing links & forming a pretty good motorway system.

    1. I agree.

      The completion of Waterview Connection we will give us a pretty good motorway system. But then our focus should shift to 1) travel demand management, e.g. parking and time-of-use pricing and 2) strategic development of alternatives, e.g. public transport.

      I don’t agree the suggestion that after Waterview we should focus on the East-West link, or Puhoi-Wellsford, or the Eastern Motorway. We have enough high quality highway connections – we just need to manage them well and provide good alternatives.

  3. I read that this borer can probably only be used with this project. I’m not an expert on borers, but shouldn’t we have purchased one that could handle a multiple projects like the CRL

    1. They pretty much destroy themselves doing the digging. I have heard of projects where they bore a small side tunnel after they finish the main tunnel and just wall the borer up in it. It’s just not economically viable to reuse it.

        1. yep, I think two actually, one per side. That’s pretty impressive.
          I would think that a lot of other ancillary gear could be used for other tunnels anyway.

      1. It is not so much that they destroy themselves, it is for two other reasons:

        – They are a bespoke design for the particular project

        – They cost a lot to disassemble and ship (and depending on the project it may be logistically impossible to recover them).

        On the first point, the diameter of the TBM as well as the thickness of the lining is set. For a large project, you want to optimise these parameters – if a tunnel is, say, 500mm bigger than it needs to be it may well end up costing more than the price of the TBM in additional materials, muck disposal, temporary works etc. Additionally the cutterhead, shield and screw conveyor will all be designed specifically for the given ground and groundwater conditions on a project. You dont want to end up with an inappropriate TBM for the job – you cant change it once you’ve started – they dont have a reverse!

        For smaller diameter TBM’s and microtunnel shields, where things are a little more standardised (e.g. pipe sizes and classes for sewer microtunnels), operators will happily reuse the same machine over and over again.

  4. Great post Matt – thanks for update. Even though I have not always supported the urgency around this project, i do think Waterview will be a very useful highway connection when it’s built.

    In terms of urban form, it does help support a north-south axis of economic activity extending south from the city centre towards Onehunga and the Airport, which ultimately is where the city’s commercial development will need to head. And the rail network as well of course. Only problem is the short-sighted nature of Transit/NZTA’s recent upgrade to SH20 Mangere Bridge does not allow for an effective rail crossing (more on this later), so we will need to spend much more on a new bridge than we would have otherwise.

    Anyhoo, I know people talk of Onehunga’s heritage, but I do wonder if Auckland would do well from redeveloping Onehunga (Or Otahuhu) as a mini-cbd centre. With medium to high density along Manukau/Great South Rds to the North. That would be my Sim-Auckland scenario …

      1. I’m looking at the image and have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to learn. All I see is what looks like a combined motorway and rail corridor that is about 200m wide, and the only crossing in sight (which means for several kilometers) is the really wide road in the bottom left hand corner. Which has a trumpet junction with the motorway, which at least is ironic Dutch road design.

        1. it’s just showing you the location of somewhere that has integrated a highway into a high density urban environment with some success. Nothing more than that. Jump on Google Earth if you want to learn more …

          1. I really don’t see what that success is. It looks like a pretty standard motorway to me… but bigger. Much bigger. And surrounding streets that are about twice as wide as anything in Auckland. Imagine if we had a road like the one running from the bottom right hand corner of your image (past the water) tower sweeping in to Auckland CBD? One section of this road is 59m from footpath to footpath according to Earth, and people already complain about 20m wide Hobson St. It’s like the Dutch road is Nelson St, Hobson St, and Queen St combined in a single corridor.

            The motorway and rail corridor is 126m wide. By comparison, CMJ at Queen St is only 90m wide.

            These are all well built efficient roads. Amsterdam is surrounded by orbital and radial motorways and the traffic flows well. I’m impressed by the no nonsense Dutch engineering, but I just don’t see anyone going for the mass bulldozing and road widening we’d need in order to reproduce this in Auckland.

            Oh, and…

            Google Earth was interesting. I hadn’t realised just where this was previously, but Earth showed some tennis courts that I played at regularly some years ago. They’re brown vacant fields (?) in your image, just to the left of the football field. StreetView didn’t help much. The views weren’t good, but it looked as if the public street running past the courts is now controlled by an access barrier of the sort you sometimes see at carpark entrances. I wonder if the courts are gone and they’ve turned the area in to a capark for the nearby railway station?

      2. Ahh, I see Stu. Within a 2.1 km length there are 4 underpasses. One has trams as well as vehicles and all have cycle paths. One is a dedicated cycle / walking underpass. Not a single 3m wide bridge to climb up and over.

        1. exactly.

          Obi seems to be struggling so I might do a post on this – I have thrown Amsterdam Zuidas out there as a “relatively” successful example of a high-density development that is overcoming the severance effects of a highway, primarily through a sustained focus on pedestrians, cycles, and transit.

          The end result is that Zuidas is becoming a high-density, high-value, walkable commercial precinct (undoubtedly supported by the adjacent VU University Campus) located in close proximity to a major highway. This did not happen overnight – it’s the result of decades of careful planning on the part of the public agencies involved.

          I think there’s some useful ideas there that Onehunga might potentially learn from, especially when you look at the quality pedestrian links to the rapid transit system (which runs in the highway median at that point) that you have noted.

          The other parallel to note with Onehunga is that Zuidas is barely 15 minutes by rail from Schipol Airport – proximity that appeals to some specific global companies that have established commercial offices at Zuidas.

    1. Hi Patrick – after the current foreshore restoration is done at Onehunga, which will include a very wide overbridge, they will have three (five, if you count Queenstown Road and Onehunga Harbour Road) very useful pedestrian crossings over that motorway within less than 2km. Pretty good severance mitigation, even if I agree with you on the starting argument…

      Not lets just not let them build “the ladder” motorway through there west-east…

    1. Well, funny you should ask – the next one after this (“Lets complete the western ring route!”) will be motorway-ing the section of SH18 between Albany Highway and SH1, complete with a big grade-separated interchange at SH1. Don’t you worry, they will find enormous amounts of money to spend if we let them…

        1. At the point Constellation goes under SH1. 1/2 billion dollar project to ‘finish’ the section of motorway from where SH18 goes under Albany Hwy (at the top of the hill) to SH1, create a new interchange at SH1 and add an extra northbound lane from Constellation to Greville Rd.

    2. The problem is that it’s quite clearly not the last motorway, already there is planning for the second motorway through Onehunga, the upper harbour to northern motorway expansion, the second motorway across the harbour, the push for a motorway from Stanley Street to the port, the list goes on and on. In my opinion the Holiday Highway also counts as an Auckland motorway as its intention is to create further sprawl possibilities north of the city.

      Depressingly pretty well all of these motorways will have no problem finding any funding and will almost certainly never go through the sort of debate that the city rail link is going through.

  5. why not do the CRL tunnel first..and then see if we need to needlessly waSte taxpayers money on building new motorways. oh well..too late now…. let’s try another angle…once this project is complete in 2015 or so…and the system (inevitably) clogs up again 6 months later…even the most ardent motorway supporter will be swayed to the p[oint of voting for a govt that supports the CRL…keep positive! LOL but seriously….Bring on the CRL!

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