The first shipment of parts for the tunnel-boring machines that will dig the Broadway subway project tunnels have arrived in British Columbia.

The tunnel-boring machine components left Germany on Feb. 25, 2022, and sailed through the Panama Canal before arriving at Fraser Surrey Docks on April 15, 2022. The second and final shipment of equipment is expected to follow in the coming weeks. The pieces are being transported to a staging area in Vancouver where they will be assembled in preparation for the machines’ launch this summer.

The two six-metre-wide machines, to be named later this spring, will be launched separately from the Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station and will bore new tunnels to Cypress Street near the line’s terminus at Arbutus Station. The tunnels will connect all six new stations along the new line.

An official ceremony is planned for the start of tunnelling, which will take about one year to complete. Manufactured by Herrenknecht, the tunnel-boring machines are custom-built to unique specifications for the type of construction as well as the underground conditions from Great Northern Way to Arbutus. The 5.7-kilometre extension to the Millennium Line is due to open in 2025.

Tunnel-boring machine facts

  • Each tunnel-boring machine (TBM) is six metres wide, 150 metres long (about the length of a football field), and weighs nearly one million kilograms (or approximately 333 elephants).
  • The TBMs will each have a staff of eight to 12 controlling them and monitoring the operation’s vital signs.
  • The TBMs will bore approximately 18 metres of new tunnel per day.
  • The excavation of both tunnels will generate approximately 200,000 cubic metres of soil that will be removed through a conveyor system.
  • The tunnels will be approximately 15 metres below ground, down to a maximum of 20 metres at Broadway-City Hall Station.
  • Once the machines arrive at Cypress Street, they will be disassembled and removed through an excavation shaft.
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Featured image: The first shipment of parts for the tunnel-boring machines that will dig the Broadway subway project tunnels has arrived in British Columbia. (BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

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