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Australia’s first autonomous TBM launched in Sydney

Australia’s first autonomous tunnel boring machine ‘Betty’ has joined the Sydney Metro West project

The new autonomous tunnel boring machine (TBM) launched recently at the Sydney Metro West project has been named after Australian Olympic runner Betty Cuthbert.

TBM Betty is the third of six mega TBMs set to build Sydney Metro West and is now carving out the section of tunnel between Sydney Olympic Park and Westmead, via the Clyde Stabling Maintenance Facility and Parramatta Metro Station.

The first autonomous TBM to be used in Australia, Betty is equipped with artificial intelligence software that has the capability to automatically steer, operate and monitor the machine.

While an operator always remains in control of the TBM, the autonomous algorithm takes on the machine’s repetitive tasks, leading to increased speed and greater accuracy.

TBM Betty is 170m long and will tunnel approximately 180m a week to dig the 4.5km to Sydney Olympic Park to complete the first leg in its journey.

Another TBM will be launched at Clyde in the coming months to excavate the second metro tunnel alongside Betty. Once the TBMs arrive at Sydney Olympic Park, they will be retrieved and returned to Clyde, where they will be relaunched in the opposite direction towards Westmead.

At the Clyde TBM launch site, approximately 138,000 tonnes of material has been removed from the 130m long, 20m wide and 28m deep box to prepare for TBM Betty’s launch.

Another Sydney Metro West TBM, Peggy – named after aviator Peggy Kelman, also made the new recently after breaking through at the future Airport Terminal station.

Weighing in at 1,066 tonnes, Peggy completed the first leg of its 5.5km journey to the Aerotropolis, having excavating around 112,000 tonnes of rock.

Another 293,000 tonnes of rock were excavated from the 25m-deep Airport Terminal station box to allow Peggy to be relaunched, tunnelling under the future Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, with the TBM expected to arrive at the Aerotropolis metro station site in 2024.

The Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport is due to open for passenger services in 2026, with an expected travel time of 15 minutes from St Marys metro station to the Airport Terminal Station and a further five minutes to the Aerotropolis Station.

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