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Reaching a major milestone in the Waterview Connection

Waterview Connection, New Zealand

31 October 2014 - As the final link in the long-planned Western Ring Route, (a 48km motorway route that bypasses central Auckland) the Waterview Connection is one of New Zealand’s largest roading projects since the Auckland Harbour Bridge was built in the 1950s.

Aurecon has been working on the planning phases of the project since 2005, and was then commissioned by our client, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), to prepare the procurement documentation for a competitive alliance tender, and to undertake a review of the concept design prepared for the Assessment of Environmental Effects for the SH20 Waterview Connection Tunnels and Great North Road Interchange package.

NZTA subsequently engaged Aurecon as their Technical Advisor during the procurement process and we have also assisted NZTA with the introduction of three new aspects to their successful Alliance Contracting Model, including a 10-year DCMO obligation, a Geotechnical Baseline Report and Owner’s Verifier role.

The Waterview Connection tunnelling project

Most recently, we are acting as the Owner’s Verifier for the Waterview Connection Tunnelling project which is to build a 6.5km, six lane motorway connection between Auckland’s Southwestern Motorway (State Highway 20) and Northwestern Motorway (State Highway 16), which when completed will be New Zealand’s longest and deepest road tunnels.

The .4b project involves:

  • Designing, building and commissioning two 2.4km long, 13.1m diameter bored tunnels up to 45m beneath Avondale and Waterview.
  • Connecting the tunnels to the existing motorway network – SH20 at the southern (Owairaka) end and SH16 at the northern (Waterview) end.
  • Expanding the Great North Road motorway interchange to provide connections between the tunnels and SH16.

The project is being delivered by the Well-Connected Alliance.

Key aspects of Aurecon’s Owner Verifier role to client, NZTA

As part of NZTA’s assurance on the project, Aurecon’s role is to review all the design submissions, to confirm compliance with the project requirements, and to focus on whole of life considerations, maintenance provisions and risk management.

Tom Ireland, Aurecon’s Technical Director and tunnelling specialist, is also part of the Value for Money team which has saved over on the project so far, by challenging the design and coming up with more cost effective solutions.

Read more in-depth editorial on the Waterview Connection, in a reccent Asia-Pacific Infrastructure News article “A tale of two tunnels that is setting new best-practice standards."

A Tunnel Boring Machine named “Alice”

A special Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) was brought in from China and was supplied by the manufacturers, Herrenknecht, located in Germany and manufactured at their facility in China. Designed and built specifically for this project, and with a cutting head measuring over 14m (as large as a four-storey building), it is the 10th largest ever used in the world (the largest being 17 526m).

As part of Aurecon’s Owner Verifier role, the Aurecon team prepared the detailed specification for the TBM used for the procurement and also took part in the Factory Acceptance Testing in Nansha, China back in 2013 before it was shipped over to New Zealand.

Affectionately named “Alice”, she started on the first of the twin tunnels that will eventually connect Auckland’s Southwestern and Northwestern motorways, in October 2013.

“Alice” breaks through the half-way point

In September this year, Alice successfully and safely broke through the half-way point after completion of the first (southbound) of the twin tunnels. Watch the following video to can see Alice’s breakthrough into daylight, released by NZTA.

This milestone also marks the beginning of a whole new challenge - turning the mega machine around in the northern approach trench, ready to begin her journey back towards where she started from in early 2015 to complete the second (northbound) tunnel.

This is no mean feat with the sheer size of the machine and the constricted area in which the manoeuvre must take place. At 87.7 metres in length and weighing in at 3100 tonnes, together with Alice’s entourage of trailing gantries, she is too big to be turned around in one piece in the space available inside the tunnels’ northern approach trench at Waterview.

Over the next five months they will be separated, much like a train with a series of back-up carriages, and brought out of the tunnel one at a time, turned and then reconnected and relaunched to complete the second tunnel.

Aurecon continues to monitor the progress with tunnelling scheduled for completion by the end of 2015.

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