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Life Underground

Photographs from within Auckland's Waterview Connection Tunnel

Story by Jeff Smith Photography January 28th, 2014

Approaching Alice

Custom built for the NZ Transport Agency’s Waterview Connection project to link the SH20 & 16 motorways, with a cutting head diameter of 14.4m, Alice is the name of the world’s 10th largest ever Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). 87m long and weighing 2200 tonnes, she has a top speed of 0.005km/hr.

When I took these shots on January 27, 2014, Alice was approximately 150m into the first leg of her 5km return journey to connect Auckland’s Western Ring Route.

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moving underground

What are these photos about?

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THE RING BEARER

Each ‘ring’ of tunnel lining comprises 9 10-tonne concrete segments and a smaller key segment. All are delivered by a low-profile transporter and placed in line, ready to be lifted and bolted into place, holding back the crushing force of the earth above.

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What are these photos about?

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CREATING THE TUNNEL LINING

The concrete segments are ‘swung’ into place with a huge lifting arm before being bolted into place.

The lining segments are first positioned using a 360° rotating arm, aligned by laser and bolted into place by hand.

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What are these photos about?

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BEHIND THE CUTTING FACE

These hydraulic pistons push against the newest ring of lining to propel Alice forward.

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spoil

Alice’s output is a mixture of earth and a non-toxic paste used to loosen the ground at the cutting face.

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THE SPOIL CONVEYOR

Excavated spoil is carried by conveyor back to a purpose-built treatment facility on site, where it is dried out before being trucked off to be used as quarry fill in South Auckland.

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What are these photos about?

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Leaving

As we leave Alice to continue her 2.4km journey, before she turns around to drill another tunnel back to her starting point, breaking the last ground in 2016.

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Footnote: for more visit Facebook.com/AliceTBM, nzta.govt.nz/projects/waterviewconnection & JeffSmithPhotography.co.nz