Construction work on the Victoria Tunnel in Auckland, New Zealand, has almost reached completion and contractors now believe that the finished tunnel will be open to traffic in November this year, which is well ahead of schedule. Work first began on the Victoria Tunnel in November 2009, a year ahead of schedule, and the planned completion date was set for the middle of 2012. With work on the tunnel almost complete, two of the three traffic lanes will open in November and the final stages of work will be complete by March next year.
Part of the tunnel construction has affected the historic Birdcage Hotel and one section south of the hotel has yet to be excavated. In order to minimise damage to the historic building, it has been placed on runway beams and moved off site to allow construction work to take place. The painstaking job of moving the hotel out of harm’s way first got underway last September.
There are more than 400 workers on the $340 million 450 metre long tunnelling project and the contractor is very proud that as yet there have been so serious accidents on site and the project has an excellent safety record.
Construction work on the Victoria Tunnel only has another 20-30 metres to go and the portal is well within sight already. However, the Birdcage Hotel will have to be restored back to its original location before the final tunnelling work can be completed. Once the hotel has been moved back, the sewerage diversion will end and the final stage of tunnelling work can commence.
The completed Victoria tunnel will feature egress structures to act as emergency escape routes, including two stairwells to take drivers out of the tunnel and up into the park should a tunnel evacuation be necessary.
Huge delays have been blamed for the staggering 50% increase on the final bill for the Dublin Port Tunnel in Ireland and with a price tag of 804 million Euros the tunnel is now being described as the most expensive piece of infrastructure in Ireland.
The original budget for the Port Tunnel was 535 million Euros, but according to the Irish Independent, documents show that it was not long before costs began to spiral out of control. Apparently concerns were raised at least fifteen months before the tunnel was scheduled to open and related to the issue of mounting costs due to claims for additional payments made by the contractor as a result of contract variations, time delays, and cost increases in materials.
The work on the Dublin Port Tunnel was carried out by a joint venture consortium comprised of Mowlem and Company, based in the UK; Nishimatsu Construction Company, a Japanese contractor with plenty of tunnelling experience; and Irishenco Construction, a local civil engineering contractor.
Initial claims made by the contractor were apparently very high, but following examination, the amounts were contested and subsequently reduced. As a result of the ballooning costs during the tunnelling construction project, a new form of contract has been devised for major road projects in Ireland whereby a price is agreed at the start of the contract and the main contractor is expected to meet all extra costs incurred.
Work on the Dublin Port tunnel first began in 2000 and the twin bore tunnel was opened to the public in December 2006. The purpose of the tunnel was to divert heavy goods traffic between the Dublin Port and M1 motorway away from Dublin city centre. Initial estimates were that around 21,600 vehicles would use the 4.5 km tunnel on a daily basis.
A new report investigating the potential cost of constructing a third tunnel across the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland has revealed an unexpected rise of $1.2 billion. The original cost estimate for building four tunnels across the harbour was put at $3.7 billion, but the new study says the projected overall cost has now increased to around $5.3 billion.
The study is being carried out to help make an informed decision as to whether a bridge or tunnel crossing is likely to be more cost effective method for transporting traffic across the Waitemata Harbour. So far, the study has concluded that a bridge would be the cheaper option by comparison to the four tunnels. Not only would the project cost less to build, but it would also require less time to construct and the maintenance bill would be around $15 million less.
However, despite the obvious benefits of building a bridge rather than tunnels, the transport minister has said that there will be a public consultation before any final decision is made about the type of crossing.
The Auckland Mayor has already stated his preference for a tunnel as opposed to a bridge as he believes tunnelling technologies are advancing all the time and a combined system of road and rail tunnels will help to future proof the project. He also stated that whatever option is finally chosen by the city, it must include the capacity for rail.
A feasibility study carried out in 2008 looked at 159 different route options, but in the final report it recommended that four tunnels be constructed: two tunnels for three lanes of road traffic and two tunnels for one rail line. A new crossing across the harbour would also provide access for public transport as well as cycling and walking lanes.