The giant boring machine that will build twin tunnels for the $4.4 billion City Rail Link was unveiled this morning before gearing up to start rumbling underground in April.
The boring machine bears the name of the late Dame Whina Cooper - the respected kuia and Māori rights champion who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of her people
It's a tradition that a tunnel boring machine cannot start work until it has a woman's name to honour St Barbara, the patron saint of underground workers, as a sign of good luck. The boring machine for Auckland's Waterview tunnel was named Alice.
The machine is a giant underground powerhouse. Built in China and assembled in Auckland, it is 130m long and will travel 32m a day to build two parallel tunnels, each 1.6km in length, under the city.
The machine is made up of two main components - a rotating cutter head at the front that bores through the earth, catches the spoil and places it on a conveyor built for removal; and a trail of gantries behind that includes a mechanism for fixing concrete panels.
It is scheduled to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and includes a break room and bathrooms for a crew of 12.
The opening of the state-of-the-art machine behind a burgundy curtain will give Aucklanders their first sight of the big machine before a public Boring Day Out on Sunday.
"Dame Whina Cooper's public debut is a tremendous moment for the project and for Auckland," City Rail Link Ltd chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney said.
"It is a symbolic signal for the start of hard work underground to build the CRL tunnels and stations that will transform the way Aucklanders can travel around their city."
Cooper's daughter, Hinerangi Puru Cooper, and her son, Joe Cooper, together with their wider family, were present at the unveiling. They were joined by Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, Transport Minister Michael Wood, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, Auckland iwi who sit on CRL's Mana Whenua Forum, and community, transport and CRL representatives.
Hinerangi Puru Cooper said she and her brother were humbled to at the unveiling.
"It's a beautiful day and mum put it on," she said.
Only the front section of the TBM, called the cutter head, was unveiled. The rest of the machine is still being assembled by the Link Alliance, which has the main CRL tunnel, stations and rail systems package - at the Mt Eden site after arriving in sections from China.
The City Rail Link, jointly funded by the Government and Auckland Council, will double the capacity of Auckland's commuter rail network once it is completed in 2024.
Tunnel Boring Machine
• Named Dame Whina Cooper.
• 130m long - 10m longer than a rugby field.
• Weighs 910 tonnes - the same as nine blue whales.
• Height of 7.15m - taller than a giraffe.
• Up to 1500 tonnes of spoil excavated daily.
• Travels 32m a day, working 24/7.
• Will bore two parallel tunnels each 1.6km long from Mt Eden to CBD.