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Huge Chinese tunnel boring machine on its way to New Zealand

Staff writer |
The world's 10th biggest tunnel boring machine (TBM) has left its manufacturer in China and is on its way to New Zealand's biggest-ever road project, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) announced.

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The state-of-the-art machine was designed and built over 14 months at Germany's Herrenknecht factory in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, specifically to drill twin 2.4 kilometers long tunnels, each of them is wide enough for three lanes of traffic for Auckland's expanding motorway system.

The TBM's circular cutting head was more than 14 meters wide the equivalent of a building four stories high. The tunnel project to complete a Western Ring Route around New Zealand's largest city would cost the government agency 1.4 billion NZ dollars, NZTA Auckland and Northland state highways manager Tommy Parker said in a statement.

The 87-meter-long machine was expected to arrive in Auckland later this month in 97 separate parts and it would be reassembled by a team of 30 in a 30-meter-deep trench at the tunneling site over three months.

"We are planning to have traffic using the tunnels by the end of 2016, which will give Auckland the connected and cohesive motorway system it needs to support growth in the region," said Mr. Parker.

It was the largest machine ever built for use in Australasia, and had been designed specifically for the local geology. Moving at a speed of 80 milimeter a minute, or 0.0005 kilometers per hour, the TBM was expected to take a year to complete the first tunnel. The NZTA said in March last year that the TBM would cost 50 million NZ dollars.

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