Test trains will soon be able to start running under Melbourne’s CBD, with the laying of tracks in the Metro Tunnel now complete.
Workers laid the final lengths of Australian-made steel rail on the tracks in March 2023, the culmination of nine months of work along the twin 9km tunnels and stations.
The process began in mid-2022, when crews started installing 4,000 high-performance concrete panels to create an even base for the rail and ensure it was properly aligned.
The panels were cast in 300 different shapes to match the curvature and elevation of the tunnels as they wind from Kensington to South Yarra, up to nearly 40m underground.
The 236 lengths of steel rail are extremely strong, but flexible enough to curve along the tunnels where needed.
With the track in place, the team is now preparing for the first test trains to run through the tunnel in the second half of this year, kicking off a period of meticulous testing to ensure the Metro Tunnel is safe and ready for passengers in 2025 – a year ahead of schedule.
Acting Premier and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, said, “This is an incredibly significant milestone for the Metro Tunnel project, one of the biggest rail infrastructure projects in Victoria’s history and for the future of our train network.
“The Metro Tunnel is supporting thousands of jobs and will support thousands more when it’s up and running – delivering turn-up-and-go trains to the city, the suburbs and, eventually, the world via Melbourne Airport Rail.”
The testing will make sure the Metro Tunnel’s complex systems are working together with the new bigger, better trains, alongside the wider network’s existing signalling system – an incredibly complex process.
Meanwhile, work will continue to fit out the five new stations with lifts, escalators, security systems, CCTV, passenger information displays and emergency phones.
Once complete, the Metro Tunnel Project will create capacity for more than half a million extra passengers each week during peak times and save passengers in the suburbs up to 50 minutes a day on a return trip.
Metro Tunnel services will also run direct from the heart of the CBD to the airport in around half an hour when SRL Airport opens in 2029.