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China-built giant prepares for NZ's biggest transport project

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-03-06 15:08

WELLINGTON -- The biggest ever transport project in New Zealand history is a step closer to completion with the handover of a massive China-built tunneling machine -- the 10th largest of its kind in the world, the New Zealand Transport Agency said Wednesday.

The state-of-the-art tunnel boring machine was designed and built over 14 months at Germany's Herrenknecht factory in Guangzhou, southern China, specifically to drill twin 2.5-km tunnels -- each wide enough for three lanes of traffic -- for Auckland's expanding motorway system, according to the NZTA.

The NZ$50-million ($41.62 million) TBM's circular cutting head was more than 14 meters wide -- the equivalent of a building three storeys high -- and the machine was almost 100 meters long.

"The size of this project and the size of the tunnel boring machine are both on a scale the likes of which we have never seen before in New Zealand," NZTA state highways official Tommy Parker said in a statement.

The machine would be dismantled for shipment to New Zealand and was due to arrive in Auckland in July before being reassembled to begin tunneling in October.

Moving at a speed of 80 mm a minute, or 0.0005 km per hour, the TBM was expected to take a year to complete the first tunnel.

The tunnel project, costing NZ$1.4 billion, has been designated a "road of national significance" by the New Zealand government and is expected to promote business growth, tourism and jobs in the country's most populous city.

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