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Meet Alice, Auckland's own giant tunneling machine


What have Kiri Te Kanawa, New Zealand suffragette Kate Sheppard, the late Maori queen, Greek goddesses and Tinkerbell from Peter Pan got in common? The answer is that they are all among the names suggested by Auckland children in the naming competition for the huge machine that will dig the city’s Waterview motorway tunnels.

However, the clear winner that emerged when public voting for the preferred name finished earlier this week was ‘Alice’ from the classic tale, Alice in Wonderland. ‘Alice’ is the name submitted by 9-year-old Branden Hall from Everglade Primary in Manukau.

Branden says he picked ‘Alice’ because the tunnel boring machine will make a tunnel  to go through, and just like the rabbit hole Alice used, ‘Wonderland’ will be on the other side.

“When the tunnel is finished it will be wonderful,” says Branden, “because it will be faster to get to my cousin’s place where I love to play, which is cool!”

Branden and others will be able to go through the motorway ‘rabbit hole’ made by Alice the TBM by early 2017, when the Waterview Connection will be completed.

In the meantime, Branden will be able to track Alice’s progress on her own Facebook page link) on his i-pad - his prize for submitting the winning name.  He also wins a model of the TBM donated by Herrenknecht, the German company that designed Alice, and the chance to be at her official launch in October.

The naming of TBMs after women is a long-held tunnelling tradition. Last month the Waterview Connection project asked school children to nominate their ideas plus the reason for choosing that name. The competition received approximately 500 entries, which were shortlisted to 10 and then to four by workers on the project, including some of those who will crew the machine.

The public made the final choice in online voting at link). Almost 4500 votes were cast – Alice the clear favourite with 1828 votes (41% of those cast), followed by Tarawa 1200 votes (27.1%), Soteria 793 (17.9%) and Ngawini 613 (13.8%).

Alice was announced the winner this morning at Branden’s school.

Waterview’s TBM was designed by Herrenknecht and fabricated at the company’s manufacturing plant in China. The machine was disassembled before being shipped to Auckland early this month. She is due to arrive next weekend.

It will then take three months to reassemble the giant machine, ready for tunnelling to start at the end of October. Alice will weigh as much as 750 elephants. She will have a top speed of 8 centimetres a minute and will be over 87 metres long, almost as long as a rugby field.

The $1.4 billion Waterview Connection is the biggest of several NZ 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.

More information about the Waterview Connection project is available at link)