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Big Boys Toys Trip Far From Boring - Bus - AKT

Big Boys Toys Trip Far From Boring


Mayor Len Brown leaves for Shanghai on Thursday for a trip that has the potential to push the much-wanted Auckland City Rail Link project one step further.

He’s going along with top NZTA executives to look at China’s infrastructure projects especially the impressive Shanghai Changjiang tunnel project where 2 German-made Herrenknecht tunnel boring machines have completed the world’s largest mechanized twin tunnels.

The giant Shangahi tunnel project

The under-river tunnels link the mainland with the island of Changxing.

The largest tunnel boring machines in the world were used with a diameter of 15.43 metres.

The largest tunnel boring machines in world

The project involves an 8.9km tunnel and a 10km cable stay bridge for both traffic and rail.

The necessary power to drive the machine with a weight of 2,300 tonnes and a length of 135 metres through the ground was provided by a 3,500 kilowatt main drive, which weighed 170 tonnes alone.

The cutterhead with its 6 cutting wheel arms can be accessed via the rear of the shield under atmospheric conditions – allowing for cutter changes under extreme conditions and ensuring the highest possible safety standards on the machine.

The Herrenknecht Mixshields excavated two tunnels with a distance of 23 metres – measured between centre axes – and operated at a pressure of 6.5 bar. The machines achieved top performances of 26 metres per day, 142 metres per week and 556 metres per month.

The tunnel boring machines each drove a 7,472 metre long tunnel beneath the Yangtze river, underpassing dikes and a residential area with low overburden, with downtimes of maximally 6 hours.

The first machine broke through a year earlier than scheduled after a construction period of 20 months. The second machine reached its target 10 months ahead of schedule. The tunnels have a vertical deviation of less than 2 centimeters and a horizontal deviation of less than 2.7 centimeters.

While China missed out on being in the front line for building Auckland’s new electric trains, KiwiRail has been buying Chinese rail expertise - but more significantly, China is being eyed for future massive infrastructure projects.

Engineers from the China Road and Bridge Corporation were in New Zealand last year scoping for projects and transport minister Steven Joyce was also China just before their visit.

Prime Minister John Key, when he last visited China this weekend, was asked about the speculation China wants to built Wellington’s Transmission Gully.

Mr Key responded: “They might do, and at the end of the day from New Zealand’s perspective I mean we’re looking for value for money.”

In July, I asked why NZ’s huge construction costs here did not add up.

China is busy showing off its new Jiaozhou Bay bridge, 42km long, 35m-wide and the longest of its kind. It links China’s eastern port city of Qingdao to the island of Huangdao.

It cost about $1.4 billion.

Vhina's new bridge cost $1.4b

The Millau Bridge in France – the highest road bridge in the world, opened in 2004, cost in today’s currency $659 million.

France's Millau bridge cost NZ$659m

I asked:

So to ignorant commuters like me, who are angry that the CBD Link and Tunnel are unlkely for decades because of the cost, can someone explain why other countries can get projects done at a reasonable cost and everything here sounds over-inflated and still comes out at the end with aspects unfinished because costs had to be trimmed to prevent overruns or to give the impression we’re getting value for money?

If Prime Minister Key and Transport Minister Joyce are looking for cost savings, it’s great his NZTA department is getting a close look at the incredible development being done in China on a massive scale for reasonable cost.

Having Mayor Brown along will hopefully give them the chance to have - away from the heat of the election debate- some rational discussions about the CBD link and Auckland harbour rail tunnel proposals and how they could be achieved.

Dealing with NZ’s still heavily regulated environment before projects can be undertaken and NZ’s labour costs compared to China’s will still be issues that need to be taken into account but in the end, this trip will inspire, open eyes, allow networking with the Chinese and hopefully open doors to making the CBD Rail Link just that bit easier for the Mayor to achieve.




  1. Matt L says:

    I think one if the key aspects of that Shanghai tunnel is that each one us big enough for 3 lanes of traffic but also holds a rail line. This would be really useful for us when we build a new harbor crossing as it will probably make it easier for us to get rail to the shore as the current plan of needing separate rail tunnels mean it would probably never happen.

  2. max says:

    The Waterview tunnel actually won’t be that much smaller… I think diameter of the TBM for waterview will be clearly above 10m as well.

  3. Geoff Houtman says:

    So who’s ripping us off in the construction costs? The local engineering and construction behemoths?

    Are there more than 2 teams to choose from?

  4. Nick R says:

    Having looked at the most recent proposal for a harbour tunnel we don’t even need a 15m tube.
    The tunnel cross section suggested by NZTA has a cable duct under the road lanes that is about 4m square, big enough to fit a third-rail powered train through (although probably not an overhead powered one), while there is a large section of the base that is just ‘concrete stabilised fill’ that could easily take the cable duct. Thats one silly thing with the motorway tunnel proposal, a large part of the volume of the tube is unused.

    Geoff, If we were building in china with chinese labour rights, chinese pay, chinese top-down authoritarian planning and chinese environmental protection (ahem) standards then we’d be able to slash our infrastructure costs.

  5. Anthony says:

    @Nick, It still doesn’t explain how the French Viaduct is so cheap as well…..

  6. Nick R says:

    I’m not sure what a like for like comparison would be for New Zealand. Millau is a supported viaduct over open farmland (not suspended bridge over a shipping channel) in easily accessible terrain. In comparison most of our projects are either in urban areas or through mountainous terrain. It is also but one structure of many on the whole Autoroute, a road that has cost several billion euro in total.

  7. Stew J says:

    They keep talking about tunnel boring for the harbour crossing but you could do the tunnel part like the link between Sweden and Norway as in this thhttp://youtu.be/bQrWIRYIk5Ae

  8. Publius says:

    IIRC the french suspension bridge is a toll bridge (PPP) so the cost mentioned might be the cost to the govt/council not the total cost of the project.

  9. Kevin says:

    New building the bridge better than tunnel. Everyone can view on the bridge better than we cannot view the tunnel. The bridge is really beautiful and icon than tunnel.
    The new bridge building in the near future more cheapest than tunnel.

  10. Carl says:

    there is no reason why the tunnel couldn’t use etag like sydney.

    OR maybe they should just bring in a congestion charge that is well over due.

    just do it there is no point complaining about it either, if we want the tunnels or the bridges then we need to raise the money from somewhere.

    the prices quoted however are unreal… maybe if we paid workers in those types of jobs the wages they should be getting, maybe we wouldn’t have to re contract them back from overseas….

  11. mark says:

    I’m a civil engineer working in the construction industry for a fairly large construction company.

    Competition between NZ contractors is extremely tight especially in this day and its not uncommon for companies to tender on very little or even 0% margin which is pretty game considering that the contractor always faces HUGE financial risks. Any client undertaking works at the moment is certainaly getting value for money from the contractor.

    From my experience the consultants add considerable costs to a project due to over-designed (ie excess materials required, complicated to build) designs, incomplete designs resulting in delays which get passed onto the client, etc etc

    I don’t believe a chineese or foreign company would be much cheaper in the long run: They still have to comply with NZ standards and codes of practice ,designs, material specifications, labour laws, health and safety acts, environmental complience, etc.

    thats my 2 cents :)

  12. Feijoa says:

    The price for the Millau viaduct was EUR394M, which back in December 2004 equalled NZD734M. The NZD has appreciated about 7% against Euro since then, but commodity and construction costs have gone up by a much greater amount so assume it would be closer to $900M or $1B in today’s money.

    As Nick points out, building a viaduct over land is not comparable to a harbour crossing. The construction of the viaduct relied on temporary pylons to hold the whole thing up before it had any of the support towers or cables. If you had to build over water it would take a lot longer and cost more. The shared road/rail tunnel is a great cost saving idea though.

  13. Carl says:

    I’d like to see someone build a bridge along side the existing one, (connected even) and then slow pull tha old one apart, leaving a possible train and bike lane situation only, and having a brand new bridge.
    the train could also run underneath the road way.

    I still the think the price of the Millau bridge is pretty amazing considering the concept of it, they way they slide it out and build it and all the foundation work they had to do.

    that bridge they build in greece is much the same, across water, but they had to do all that base layer work under the ocean.

    Tolls are fine as long as its not like the stupid idea of pulling off and parking up that one when you go up north…

  14. Matt L says:

    Nick that 15m cross section becomes about 13m once you add in all of the lining etc. I believe that the Shanghai tunnel was the first bored tunnel to have both road and rail fit in the same tube so if we were to do the same we would probably need a similar sized tunnel.

    The one big advantage of it though is that the road tunnel can be built and put into operation but the rail section can sit there waiting until we can afford to build the rest of the line but when it is time to do it then at least the crossing isn’t the limitation.

    Stew J - I assume you are referring to a submerged tube, that was looked at but considered to risky. The harbour is part of a marine reserve and the NZTA considered that it would be too hard to get consents for it due to the damage digging a trench in the sea floor would do.

  15. MrV says:

    I think the thing with Europe apart from the fact everyone cries ‘socialist’ at them, many of their road systems operate with tolls.

    Compare that to ‘capitalist’ USA, that spend half a trillion back in the day of public money on the interstate system and today has comparitively fewer tolls (although they are becoming more common due to budget squeezes)

    Go figure …

  16. urbanlocal says:

    We would want to be careful getting Chinese contractor s to do the work. The efficiency in China will probably not relate well to international application such as in NZ. Poland has has problems with Chinese State Companies not completing the highway build contracts their.

  17. Geoff Houtman says:


    Thank you very much, that was my next question.

    Damn consultants, didn’t they ever study Coco Chanel?

    “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”

  18. Scott says:

    Rumor has it that water view will use a TBM with a radius that puts it in the biggest 15 in the world. Rumor also has it that it will be custom built.

  19. Bevan says:

    @Carl. You don’t have to pull over to pay the tolls on the Puhoi Tollroad. There are easier electronic methods available too which can either deduct the toll from your account if you use the road often, or you can do a one off payment online. Much easier and doesn’t interrupt your journey. Only need to pull over if you need a pit stop!

  20. Nick R says:

    @Matt L “Nick that 15m cross section becomes about 13m once you add in all of the lining etc. I believe that the Shanghai tunnel was the first bored tunnel to have both road and rail fit in the same tube so if we were to do the same we would probably need a similar sized tunnel.”

    The tunnel proposed by NZTA for just the motorway connection was indeed 15m diameter with a usable cross section of about 13m. My point was this is the sort of thing they are suggesting for the motorway alone, even though there is room enough in the sump to take a smaller rail system or perhaps bus.

  21. JC says:

    I cannot understand why our so called leaders are looking at construction on this scale in countries like China. Auckland is no where near the size of the Chinese cities. Why are they not looking at Cities such as San Franciso, Perth , Santiago, Panama city where the layout of these cities are like for like with regards to the harbour, earth moment, weather, travel trends etc etc.

    Strange they want to look at something so grand and way out of our league both in size and funds.

  22. Neville says:

    In Spain they have just completed a 2.9km tunnel under Girona for EUR 279m (which includes a station) but I can’t find whether is 1 or 2 tubes. This is part of the Barcelona to Figueres high speed line. The Auckland central loop is about the same length (but with 2 stations). Why is it so much more expensive?



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