Flinders and Elizabeth Streets

A microtunnel boring machine (MTBM) has arrived in Melbourne to help deliver the biggest upgrade to the CBD’s sewer network in more than a century.  

The MTBM was lowered five metres underground during a site visit from Victoria Member for Northern Metropolitan Sheena Watt as construction continues on the Elizabeth Street sewer upgrade.

The arrival of the 3.5m MTBM marks a milestone for the latest stage of an $80 million capital improvement program for the city’s sewer network, which is more than 120 years old and nearing full capacity.

Greater Western Water’s General Manager Growth and Infrastructure, Amanda Smith, said the significant investment in a second network for the CBD is ensuring safe and reliable sewerage services for Melburnians and city tourists.

“The original sewer network has protected public health for over 120 years – our city has grown and changed significantly since then, and this upgrade ensures continued service dependability for everyone who lives in and visits the CBD.

“We’re future-proofing this vital community infrastructure to support population growth and meet the challenge of climate change so that Melbourne remains a liveable city for generations to come.

“After several months of careful planning and working closely with stakeholders to prepare for these works, we’re pleased to be ready to start tunnelling,” Ms Smith said.   

The MTBM has now started a 700m journey to construct a new sewer main under Elizabeth Street, from Lonsdale Street to Victoria Street, travelling 12m a day.

While it may be small in size, the 8t, 85cm diameter MTBM is big on efficiency and is expected to finish the job in 16 weeks, moving about 420 cubic metres of dirt to build the new sewer.

Because this type of MTBM emits low noise and vibration, Elizabeth Street pedestrians and commuters will barely hear or feel the machine at work underground.

Temporary traffic changes remain in place along Elizabeth Street to keep everyone safe in and around the site, including lane closures for northbound traffic as works take place.

The Elizabeth Street Sewer Upgrade is scheduled for completion in late 2023, joining two new sewer mains constructed underneath Spencer and Lonsdale Streets.

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