Big Alice arrives to start new journey for Auckland


The giant machine known as Alice that will bore the tunnels for the Waterview Connection, sailed into Auckland at 4pm today (Monday, 22 July) after its three-week long voyage from China.

The giant machine known as Alice that will bore the tunnels for the Waterview Connection, sailed into Auckland at 4pm today (Monday, 22 July) after its three-week long voyage from China.

The tunnel boring machine  (TBM) berthed at the Ports of Auckland’s Waitemata terminal on board the BBC Georgia, a container ship chartered for the voyage.   Because of its size, it was dismantled for shipping  and arrived like a giant meccano set, in 100 separate ‘bits’ including 20 containers of small parts.

“It’s a long awaited and exciting arrival marking the next phase to complete the country’s biggest roading project,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker.

As the container ship berthed, it was greeted by a Ngati Whatua kapa haka group and a 14 metre diameter art work – the same size as the TBM’s cutting head – that recognises both the cultural and future significance of the Waterview Connection.

Unloading the ship will start immediately and it will take 10 days to transport all the TBM’s parts to the project’s southern portal at Owairaka, where it will be reassembled.

Thirteen of the 100 loads will be over-sized and they will be moved at night to minimise disruption to other traffic.  All roads being used for transport will remain open with the exception of the Sandringham Road extension and the Maioro Street southbound motorway on-ramp on two nights, which will allow trucks to access the construction site via a specially built haul route from the Southwestern Motorway (State Highway 20).

Alice is the 10th biggest machine of its kind in the world and it has been custom-built to bore twin tunnels 2.4km long and up to 45 metres deep to connect Auckland’s Northwestern (SH16) and Southwestern (SH20) with three lanes of traffic in each direction.

The $1.4 billion Waterview Connection is the biggest of several Transport Agency projects underway or planned to complete the Western Ring Route – an alternative motorway for Auckland that will improve city and regional transport links as part of the Government’s roads of national significance programme to help economic growth. It is being built by the Well-Connected Alliance comprising the NZ Transport Agency, McConnell Dowell, Fletcher, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Obayashi, Beca, and Tonkin&Taylor.

The tunnel boring machine was specifically designed for the Waterview geology by German company Herrenkencht and manufactured in China. It will then take three months to reassemble the giant machine, ready for tunnelling to start at the end of October.


Te Haerenga Hou, meaning New Journey, is the artwork that has been designed for the Waterview Connection project by Auckland artist Graham Tipene. At 14 metres in diameter, it is approximately the same size as the cutting face of the Tunnel Boring Machine.

It depicts the journey from the Manukau Harbour along the route of what is now State Highway 20, past the volcanoes of Te Ara Pūeru /Māngere, Te Hōpua (Gloucester Park), Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) and Puketāpapa (Mt Roskill), to the feet of Ōwairaka (Mt Albert). This is where the new tunnels of the Waterview Connection will be built to lead travellers out toward the Waitematā Harbour. The korero (story) of the journey surrounds the lovers Tamaireia and Hinemairangi, the traditions about whom relate to the creation of the many volcanic features around the Auckland region.

About the TBM

Tunnelling machines are traditionally given a woman’s name.  The name Alice was chosen by a 9 year old Auckland schoolboy and was one of four chosen for an online voting contest to select the most popular of the four.

TBM Facts

  • Cutting head diameter                14.4m
  • Total length                               87m
  • Total weight                               2200 tonnes or 3200 when the gantries are included
  • Crew                                         15
  • Top speed                                80mm a minute or 0.0005km/h
  • Expected daily progress             10m
  • Cutting head power                    8400 kW
  • Cutting head speed                    1.9 rpm maximum (1RPM for normal operations)
  • Nominal torque                          68,220 kN