Herrenknecht makes it four for Brisbane Aug 2008
Shani Wallis, Editor, reports from Queensland
- Friday 15 August, 2008, Brisbane, Queensland: Brisbane committed to the Aust$5 billion Airport Link toll highway with confirmation of a Aust$90 million contract with Herrenknecht for two new large diameter TBMs.
- The new 12.48m diameter EPB systems are ordered by the Thiess John Holland Joint Venture, the design- build constructors and group partners of the BrisConnections PPP (public-private partnership) group selected to build the 6.7km long electronic tollway, most of which is underground in twin 5.25km long two lane tunnels. Herrenknecht wins the order against competition from rivals Robbins in an EPB technical joint venture with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lovat in collaboration with Kawasaki.
Martin Herrenknecht (centre) with project officials
- Martin Herrenknecht, founder and Director of the Management Board of Herrenknecht AG (centre) was on hand in Brisbane on Friday to confirm the $90 million plus TBM order with David Moran, Project Director of Thiess John Holland (center left), and with (continuing left) Deputy Premier of Queensland Paul Lucas, and Andrew Day, Group Engineering Manager, Thiess; and from right, Trevor Rowe Chairman of BrisConnections, Russell Cuttler General Manager Tunnelling, John Holland, and David Saxelby Managing Director, Thiess.
- Among those heading to the project from other parts of the world are Eddie Woods previously of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and CrossRail projects in London, Tony Bermingham from the Gold Coast desalination project in Queensland, and Brendan Henry from the recently completed running tunnels for the Canada Line LRT project in Vancouver, Canada.
- BrisConnections with financial partner Macquarie Capital Group and lead designers to the design-build contract, Arup and Parsons Brinckerhoff, was selected for the total $5 billion PPP project in May this year. Construction is scheduled to start later this year with the TBMs arriving towards the end of 2009 for launch in early 2010. As the largest single investment in transport infrastructure in Australia to date, the project is due to open by the middle of 2012. The project comprises the $3.4 billion Airport Link plus a $444 million State funded 3km long dedicated busway and a $272 million flyover connection on the airport approach road.
The only dampener on the day was dire performance of the project's stock market float earlier in August. In the first day of trading, the first $1 instalment of a three-part $3/share float to raise Aust$1.2 billion in traded equity dropped 60% to close at 41c. A 20% drop if the $3 offer price is used. This was said to reflect the cautious economic environment but others are more critical saying that, like other PPP toll road highway projects in Australia, the financing model is flawed. An analyst reported in an Australian newspaper said: "They have no growth so their only selling point is yield. Their dividend will be paid from debt which is not sustainable." PPP funding of the total $5 billion project comprises $1.5 billion from the State, $1.2 billion in equity and the remainder in a combination of debt and capital invested by the project partners.
- Other Australian PPP toll road tunnels in trouble include the Lane Cove project in Sydney that opened to traffic in 2007. Predictions are that operator Connector Motorways could default on its $1.14 billion debt obligations unless an injection of new equity is approved by existing shareholders, which include the giant MBIA Insurance Corp. Receivership awaited the Cross City toll highway tunnel in Sydney in December 2006 when cash-flow shortfalls caused it to default on debt payments less than 18 months after opening to traffic in August 2005. Traffic flows for both tollways have fallen far short of those predicted and those required to service debt.
- A major player on both projects is Australia's Leighton Holdings, which backed the Lane Cove concession and partnered with financial group ABN-Amro to buy the failed Cross City toll tunnel concession. Both are also principal stakeholders with Baulderstone Hornibrook and Bilfinger Berger in the 45-year publicly listed RiverCity Motorway PPP concession that is currently building the $2 billion North-South Bypass Tunnel in Brisbane.
North-South tunnel project progress
It is to the North-South Bypass Tunnel that the first two large diameter Herrenknecht TBMs in Brisbane were delivered. Launched in January and March 2008, the two 12.34m diameter double-shielded rock TBMs are about 1.4km into their parallel drives when TunnelTalk visited the site on Tuesday (19 August). Working two 12h shifts/day, 7 days/week in one tube and 5 days/week in the other, the machines had passed through the welded Brisbane tuff and had advanced into the abrasive metamorphosed foliated sediments of the Neranleight Fernvale formation heading south to start their 300m passage under the Brisbane River. Tight welding of the tuff and sedimentary rocks allowed application of an open-face, double-shielded gripper TBM with probing and pre-excavation grouting as needed for the river crossing and a one-pass precast concrete segmental lining with pea gravel and grout backfill erected behind.
- As is also the case on the Airport Link project, the main TBM drives are supported by substantial lengths of roadheader excavation for on and off ramps, mergers, cross passages and starter tunnels. Lead designer on the NSBT is the Maunsell/Parsons Brinckerhoff Joint Venture with geotechnical engineering by Golder Associates.
Four tunnel masterplan
The 6.8km long North-South Bypass and the 6.7km long Airport Link are the first two projects in a masterplan of five projects designed to sort out the Brisbane's notorious traffic system maze and address congestion black spots by creating a ring road around the city centre. Dubbed TransApex by the city's Lord Mayor (and major tunnel infrastructure supporter) Campbell Newman, the five projects include one bridge, currently under construction and as a substitute for a steep gradient tunneled crossing, and two more tunnel projects - the Northern Link and the East West tunnel project. A summary report for the 5km long Northern Link from the Mayor's office on Friday 15 August, states that the estimated Aust$2.65 billion tunnel project "stacks up financially with substantial long-term benefits to the road network." The project is again being planned as a PPP toll road concession, the EIS and tender period stages for which are expected to conclude with award of the concession at the end of next year (2009). The East West tunnel project is to be developed in years to come although that too is being drawn in from a projected 2020 to a possibly 2016 start date according to Michael Corkill, media spokesperson for the Mayor's office. For the moment, the first two tunnel projects are taking shape.