Sydney roadheaders boost Hunter businesses

With the M4 East now approved for construction, 18 roadheaders are making their way from across the globe to start work on the first tunnel section of WestConnex.

Some are coming from as far as Austria and Japan, but other roadheaders have a much shorter journey.

Three machines are being refurbished in the Hunter by Coal Mine Services, ahead of their 18 months of scheduled tunnelling work on the M4 East, providing a much-needed boost to the local economy.

The Mitsui SLB-300 roadheaders are being fully refurbished at Redhead, south of Newcastle, with the first one due to be delivered to site in May.

Work has been underway since December to painstakingly strip down each machine one by one to enable a complete assessment of which components need replacing, repairing or refurbishment in order to have them ready to face the rigours of tunnelling through Sydney sandstone.

Once each refurbishment is completed, the roadheaders will be delivered in parts by road and re-assembled on-site in Sydney.

Stephen Brownell, Engineering Director at Coal Mine Services, said the work was not only welcome at their Redhead workshop, but more broadly in the local area, as several other businesses and suppliers were also benefiting.

“We are very familiar with rebuilding the Mitsui machines due to our experience with them in the mining industry and it’s great that we’ve had the opportunity to be involved in the largest infrastructure project to be built in Australia,” Mr Brownell said.

“We’ve been able to put on an extra eight workers as a result of the rebuilds and it’s also great for the workers that some are likely to benefit from ongoing employment via the M4 East project.

“Being able to provide work to other local companies as a result of refurbishment is also helping the local economy, contracting jobs such as sandblasting, painting, hydraulic repairs, heavy engineering services and heavy lift crane work.

“With the downturn in the mining sector also affecting a large group of Newcastle and Hunter businesses, having the opportunity to get involved with WestConnex has been very welcome.”

Each roadheader is around 14 metres long and weighs about 90 tonnes and is capable of cutting about eight metres wide and nine metres high.

One of the roadheaders has previously been used on Sydney Metro Northwest, while the two others have come interstate from Brisbane.

They’ll be joined by eight new SLB-300 models coming from Japan, along with five new Sandvik roadheaders coming from Austria, which weigh up to 135 tonnes and are around 15 metres long.

The 18 roadheaders will work from four tunnelling sites to progress tunnelling at an average rate of around 20 to 30 metres a week.

WestConnex Project Director Terry Chapman says delivering WestConnex mostly in tunnel is reducing impact on the surface.

“More than two-thirds of WestConnex is being delivered in tunnel to reduce impact on local communities and the environment,” Mr Chapman said.

More than 600 people are expected to work underground during construction of the M4 East, with the project to support around 4,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction.

The M4 East will extend the M4 via tunnel from Homebush to Haberfield and will be the first tunnel section of WestConnex to start work.

Major construction work is due to get underway on the M4 East mid-year and is due to open to traffic in 2019.