Big spill halts tunnel works on Airport train line

Tunnelling operations have paused on the Forrestfield-Airport Link after a section of piping servicing one of the tunnel-boring machines dislodged in Tunnel Two, causing a slurry spill. Picture: Supplied
Tunnelling operations have paused on the Forrestfield-Airport Link after a section of piping servicing one of the tunnel-boring machines dislodged in Tunnel Two, causing a slurry spill. Picture: Supplied

WORK on the Forrestfield line tunnel came to a dramatic halt on Tuesday after an underground pipe broke and sloshed slurry through the tunnel.

The incident occurred where one of the tunnel-boring machines is making its way towards the site of the Redcliffe station, which will be the first stop on the Forrestfield spur line when it opens in 2021.

Only last week Premier Mark McGowan and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti had hailed the success of the other tunnel-boring machine, which had broken through to the Redcliffe station box to complete the leg from Perth Airport.

The second machine was said to be about 500m and a couple of weeks from completing the same leg, but that will be delayed after work stopped today.

A statement from the Public Transport Authority confirmed the pipe had broken away from brackets on the side of the tunnel wall about 4am, causing a slurry spill.

“It is anticipated that repairing the pipes and cleaning up the spilt material will take about a week, at which point TBM Sandy can continue towards Redcliffe Station,” the statement read.

The pipes are used to carry slurry to and from the machine to control pressure.

No one was injured and an investigation into the incident is underway.

The first of the two tunnel-boring machines arrived at Redcliffe station on Thursday and is set for a six-week maintenance break.

Most of the new 8.5km line to Forrestfield requires tunnels and more than 60 per cent has been completed by the two tunnelling machines involved.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the final role for the two machines would be to tunnel under the Swan River, at times as deep as 22m, to connect to the Midland line at Bayswater.

“Work for this incredibly complex project is taking place across 13 different construction sites,” she said.

“As with any project of this scale, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride but I’m thrilled to see the new stations taking shape and this significant tunnelling milestone reached.”