Not one but two of the machines that will build the North West Rail Link tunnels will be in the ground by the end of this year, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian announced on Tuesday. ISABELL PETRINIC reports.
"We're ever so slightly ahead [of schedule]," Ms Berejiklian said with reference to completion of the $8.3 billion eight-station rail network.
She joked that she hoped she and Premier Mike Baird would be among the first passengers on the first train in 2019.
She was standing within the Bella Vista station box as she made the comments.
The box is now almost 10 metres deep and it will be from this box, off Celebration Drive, Bella Vista, that two tunnel boring machines will enter the ground.
The first machine is en route to Australia from French-based manufacturer NFM via China.
Alexandra Marshall of Rouse Hill Anglican College won a competition to name it Elizabeth, after original Rouse Hill House homeowner Elizabeth Rouse.
READ MORE: Click here to read about "Elizabeth".
Mrs Rouse died in December 1849, aged 75, but her name will be on everyone's lips when TBM Elizabeth enters the Bella Vista station box in October.
Weighing 900 tonnes and about 120 metres long, Elizabeth will start digging the first of the link's twin tunnels nine kilometres to Cherrybrook station.
Concrete rings that will line these tunnels will be made in a precast concrete facility at Bella Vista.
Picture each of these rings as massive concrete wedding rings about seven metres wide, locked together one after the other to form the inside of the tunnels. About 16,500 rings will be made.
As the tunnelling machine cuts about 1.7 metres of rock, a ring will be put into place while the machine continues moving forward.
The crushed rock will be removed on a conveyer belt through each TBM and back to the tunnelling work site to be re-used.
Mr Baird confirmed the Northwest Rapid Transit Consortium as the project's preferred operator. The contract will be signed next month.
The media was told all trains on the automated network would be monitored remotely from a new Rapid Transit Rail Facility at Tallawong Road, Rouse Hill, as well as by roaming attendants on the trains.
How customers would exit the trains in an emergency would be decided in consultation with the consortium.
Mr Baird said the government would set and control the fares on the North West Rail Link and the operator would be fined if contract requirements, such as running trains on time and making they sure they were clean, were not met.
■ Build NWRL’s eight railway stations;
■ Provide 4000 commuter car parking spaces;
■ Supply the fully-automated rapid transit trains;
■ Build/operate Rouse Hill’s Tallawong Road stabling and maintenance facility;
■ Install tracks, signalling, mechanical and electrical systems;
■ Upgrade/convert the railway between Epping to Chatswood to rapid-transit status;
■ Operate the North West Rail Link, including all maintenance work.
TOUR BELLA VISTA STATION: Click here to take a tour of the Bella Vista Station box.
Click here for more on the North West Rail Link.