Meet our tiny tunnelling machine

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A tiny, remote-controlled tunnel-boring machine (TBM) is now drilling under the streets of Clayton as part of construction of Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) East, between Cheltenham and Box Hill.

The sewer relocation works on Dunstan Street, Clayton kicked off a massive program of initial and early works, which will create up to 800 local jobs, and crews are using technology specially designed to minimise community disruption.

The works at Clayton will see the tiny laser-guided TBM, measuring at just 32cm in diameter, dig a small tunnel for the new sewer. It will work at a depth of around 5m underground and move at the cracking pace of 3.75m/h, completing the full 630m distance within the next 6 months.

The machine is not only less disruptive than laying pipe in an open trench, but also more efficient. It will move between a series of shafts, and as each section is dug, the shafts will be closed – with only a manhole cover remaining visible.

The mini machine works on the same principle as large-scale custom TBMs, which will carve out the SRL East twin tunnels from 2026.

The SRL station at Clayton will become a transport superhub – linking passengers to the existing Metro line and connecting regional Victorians to SRL at the new rail interchange.

Around 70,000 passengers are expected to use SRL East every day, with a trip from Cheltenham to Box Hill taking just 22 minutes.

Suburban Rail Loop