A major package of works is going out to the market as the Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) begins construction.

Expressions of Interest will open this week for the tunnelling packages on the project. The first tunnelling package will be the longest in Victoria’s history – delivering around 16km of twin tunnels between Cheltenham and Glen Waverley. The second will complete the SRL East corridor with tunnels from Glen Waverley to Box Hill.

Up to ten tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will be used for SRL East – each custom-built to suit the local ground conditions. The Metro Tunnel used four TBMs, while eight were used for the dual 21km tunnels on London’s CrossRail project.

The number of TBMs will speed up the tunnelling process, with launching sites planned for three locations: Monash, Heatherton, and Burwood.

Initial construction on the project will start in April 2022, with tunnelling expected to begin in 2026 – attracting the interest of some of the world’s leading construction companies keen to be part of this project.

This package of works will also include safety cross passages between the tunnels, station boxes at Clayton and Monash, and tunnel entrances and exits at the stabling facility.

Today, the State Government also launched the SRL Community Projects Fund. The new fund will deliver local projects to communities from Cheltenham to Box Hill while SRL East is being built – so communities along the line will start to see the benefits of the project long before any trains hit the tracks.

Eligible projects could include new and improved open spaces and facilities like parks, playgrounds, community hubs, sports club upgrades and new equipment, or support for community events and festivals.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, said, “The pandemic has made us all appreciate the importance of our local community – this new fund will deliver new and improved parks, community facilities, and support for local sports clubs and events alongside a state-shaping project to connect suburbs and create jobs.”

Funding rounds will be offered each year during construction for new initiatives and projects. Applications are currently open for the first round of Community Support Grants, with not-for-profits, sports clubs and schools able to apply for grants between $10,000 and $80,000, with the first to be awarded in late 2022.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Director and Chief Executive Professor, Tim Entwisle, is leading an expert panel to advise SRL on open space initiatives, building on his work on the Level Crossings Removal Project.

“We will bring together community feedback and landscape expertise to advise on the best use of open spaces for these neighbourhoods,” Mr Entwisle said.

SRL East will link six new underground stations at major suburban employment, education, health and retail precincts, attracting new jobs, housing and opportunities while creating up to 8,000 jobs during construction.

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