Overview

We’re building Victoria’s longest twin road tunnels with a design that focuses on protecting homes and sensitive environmental areas, including the Yarra River. In response to community feedback, we’ve extended the North East Link Tunnels an extra 1.9km, to create two 6.5km tunnels, using tunnel boring machines (TBMs).

At the northern end of the tunnel, we'll be launching and operating the TBMs near Lenola Street, Macleod, and Winsor Reserve will be used to support construction works and tunnelling. We’ll also be constructing the Lower Plenty Road interchange which will improve local access to the North East Link Tunnels.

In Bulleen, we'll be building the Manningham Road interchange, the new Bulleen Road, a tunnel ventilation structure, the new Yarra Link green bridge and Eastern Freeway interchange.

How we’ll build the tunnels

TBMs are large machines used to excavate dirt and rock. The cutting head on the front of the TBM rotates and hydraulic cylinders push it forward from behind. Cutter discs on the cutting head break through the dirt and rock.

Conveyer belts and pipes inside the TBM take the rock and dirt from the cutter head to the end of the machine and then to the surface. As the tunnels are being dug, we’ll place curved segments of concrete inside to form the tunnel walls.

While most of the work to build the North East Link Tunnels will happen deep underground, major works are still needed at the surface to launch and operate the TBMs as well as build new interchanges, and the ventilation structures for the tunnels.

Key work sites

Winsor Reserve, Macleod

A large acoustic shed is being built at Winsor Reserve later this year to support the TBMs once they start tunnelling. The shed will be built to insulate noise, dust and light spill as much as possible during construction. It will be around 140m long, 80m wide and 18m high. To manage truck and traffic movements and to keep locals safe, we’re building a dedicated entry and exit point for construction vehicles at a new signalised intersection on Greensborough Road between Somers Avenue and Torbay Street.

As the TBMs make their way underground toward Bulleen, the dirt they remove will be transported on an enclosed conveyor belt over Greensborough Road, where it will be temporarily stored in the acoustic shed. Inside the shed, the dirt and rock will be loaded onto covered trucks, weighed, and taken offsite to be reused or disposed of. Truck wheel wash stations will be installed on-site at Winsor Reserve to reduce dirt and rock making its way on to local roads.

The playground at Winsor Reserve and Tuckfield Court path will remain open for local use. Once works are complete, we'll work with the community to reinstate the reserve into a sporting and recreation space.

Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) launch area, Watsonia

Across from Winsor Reserve on the east side of Greensborough Road, construction is underway as we prepare the launch box for the TBMs ahead of their expected delivery in late 2023. After they arrive, we’ll assemble and launch them on their journey south in 2024.

Over the coming months, 3 giant piling rigs will bore 400 holes into the ground up to 40m deep, for the 200m long launch site.

Piling involves constructing columns in the ground to provide vertical and horizontal support to a structure. A pile is formed by drilling a large deep hole into the ground, followed by a reinforced steel cage and concrete poured. The concrete pile is then shaped using a combination of pressurised water and machinery.

Lower Plenty Road interchange, Yallambie

We’ve started preparing the Borlase Reserve site compound so we can build the ramps and the tunnels for the new Lower Plenty Road interchange.

The interchange ramps will be built using a method called cut and cover. A deep area will be excavated to build the tunnel and connecting ramps and covered over when finished.

Tunnel ventilation structure, Yallambie

The ventilation structures for the North East Link Tunnels will protect the health of the local community and drivers using the tunnels. The northern tunnel ventilation structure will be located near Blamey Road on former Department of Defence land. We're preparing the site for construction of a ventilation shaft to connect to the tunnels underground.

Manningham Road interchange, Bulleen

We’re getting ready for construction of the new Manningham Road interchange, that will shift 14,700 vehicles a day off Bulleen Road and into the North East Link Tunnels.

The simpler ramp layout avoids the historic River Red Gum on Bridge Street, reduces impacts on Bulleen Art & Garden and opens up more land for future development.

Over the coming months, we’ll be continuing earthworks and ground levelling for flood protection of the area, demolishing the vacant properties in the Bulleen Industrial Precinct, finishing construction compounds at the southern end of the site and delivering heavy machinery and equipment to support tunnelling.

To build the interchange, we’ll be using a method called cut and cover tunnelling. As part of this construction method, we will need 65,000 tonnes of a common grout material to help build the tunnel wall structures. A purpose-built grout manufacturing plant is currently being built on site to support these works.

Bulleen Road, Veneto Club to Eastern Freeway

We’re working hard to keep traffic moving along Bulleen Road and ensuring there is good access for local schools, sports clubs and the Veneto Club during construction.

To help with this, we’ll soon start making some changes to Bulleen Road, shifting the lanes further west. This will help make room for the new tunnel entrances and Yarra Link green bridge and keep traffic moving right through construction.

After these works are complete and Bulleen Road traffic has moved onto the new lanes, we’ll start building the new Yarra Link green bridge, the entrance and exit ramps for the tunnels and then the tunnel ventilation structure.

Before North East Link opens, Bulleen Road will be upgraded with new traffic lights and access roads for Carey Grammar, Marcellin College, Trinity Grammar and the Veneto Club, with new landscaping, cycling and walking connections.

The two-hectare green bridge over Bulleen Road will link Koonung Creek Trail to Bulleen Park for the first time. The bridge will be planted with indigenous trees, grasses and shrubs. Pockets of open space will provide a bike and walking trail, a fitness station and places to stop, rest and enjoy views of the Yarra River.


Managing impacts

We’re planning our work to minimise disruption to the local community and road users wherever we can.

Noise

  • building sheds and installing hoarding around compounds to contain some of the noisiest works
  • monitoring noise levels at surrounding residential and commercial areas
  • using noise control equipment may be used on machinery and tools
  • scheduling noisy works when they will have the least impact, where possible.

Dust

  • preventing dust and water runoff by using water carts and street sweepers.

Traffic

  • building dedicated access points for construction sites off Greensborough and Bulleen roads, avoiding disruption to residential streets where possible
  • when lane closures, speed reductions and detours are needed, we'll provide plenty of notice and have traffic management plans in place to minimise disruptions as best we can.

Light

  • shields will be used to minimise light spill into homes.

Night works

  • if night or out of hours work is required, we will ensure noise is kept to a minimum to reduce disturbance to residents
  • we’ll also let residents know about any night works in advance and discuss the available support measures.

Parking

  • dedicated worker car parking is built for each construction area, enough for all workers to ensure they don’t park on local streets.

When working in urban areas, it’s not unusual to encounter contaminants. Specialised workers known as hygienists will be on site wearing personal protective equipment during these works. They are trained to safely handle any hazardous materials that may be present in line with strict Environmental Performance Requirements.